Music of the Month

Linda Thompson
Proxy Music
Review by Chris Nickson
Photo: Sean James

Listen "That's The Way The Polka Goes."

The hands-down winner for both wittiest title and album cover of 2024 is the very welcome return of Linda Thompson on her first proper solo album since 2013 Won’t Be Long Now. Well, sort of. She provides the songs, either written alone or with others, but her voice only crops up once, among the backing vocalists on one track. No surprise, perhaps, given her longtime problems with spasmodic dysphonia that’s so often prevented her from singing. But instead of trying to put herself front and centre on the recording, she came up with a very cunning plan using other singers – proxies.

Listen "The Solitary Traveller" (excerpt)

It turns out to be very much a family affair, involving son Teddy and daughter Kami (who sings on the sorrowful opener, “The Solitary Traveller”), along with her son-in-law, grandson, ex-husband, and many other willing spirits. The Unthanks perform “Three Shaky Ships,” a Richard and Linda Thompson composition that the couple never released, and transform it into something that’s unmistakably their own. The Proclaimers bring a beautiful delicacy to “Bonnie Lass,” with an Aly Bain fiddle part that’s breathtakingly exquisite. And it’s Richard Thomopson who provides guitar for “I Used To Be So Pretty,” sliding behind Ren Harvieu’s voice on a song that almost harks back to classic R&L in its lyrics.

There are good, roaring time on show here too. “Those Damn Roches” is a rollicking roundup of those families who somehow seemed to go together, and Eliza Carthy has a joyous riot with “That’s The Way The Polka Goes.”

It all serves as a reminder of what an exceptional songwriter Linda Thompson has always been; everything here is as is good as her strongest work from over four decades ago. Yet of everything on Proxy Music, it’s impossible not to have a particular soft spot for “Mudlark,” where Thompson herself adds her voice to back vocals behind her daughter, son and son-in-law. It’s a small touch, but somehow makes everything complete.

"I Used to Be So Pretty" (excerpt)

Proxy Music is an unexpected album, arriving when Thompson seemed to have given up music, and the surprise makes it even more special. It’s a labour of love that becomes a true parcel of pleasure. And that cover? It’s a full parody of the first Roxy Music cover, with Thompson dressed and made up just like a vintage pin-up in model Kari-Ann Moller’s famous shot. Honestly, about as perfect as you can get. Quite simply, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Find the artist online.

Further reading:
Eliza Carthy - No Wasted Joy
The Unthanks - Diversions Vol 5
Suzzy Roche - Interview

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