Richard ThompsonSweet Warrior
Essential: "She Sang Angels to Rest"
Where other masters of the craft of songwriting sweep up accolades with each new album, British troubadour and guitar virtuoso Richard Thompson remains a cult figure, an acquired taste. It is exceedingly unlikely that "Sweet Warrior" will change very many minds, being a Thompson album much like its predecessors. There's the fingers-of-fury rave-up ("I'll Never Give It Up"), the tender ballad of lost love ("She Sang Angels to Rest"), and the tart political diatribes ("Guns Are the Tongues" and the grunt-eye's take on Iraq, "Dad's Gonna Kill Me.") With nothing particularly unusual to recommend, non-fans will miss out on yet another in a long string of superb collections. Not every track here is a gem, but Thompson, like his compatriot Bob Dylan, is that rare bird: the performer whom age cannot touch. On "Sweet Warrior," Thompson is contemplative as usual; the mood is autumnal, fraught with death and loss. It is not only the ghosts of the past that weigh on his songs, but also the demons of the present. The lyrics are melancholy, but Thompson's guitar is in fine form, and the songs themselves have a jaunty swing that belies their pessimistic bent. [Saul Austerlitz]
Richard Thompson plays at Berklee Performance Center on June 30.