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Richard Thompson, Electric (Proper)

Misanthropy gets a bad name.

Even if you are as spiritual a person as Thompson has been in his long musical life, a certain amount of cynicism about your fellow human beings in an age of vacuous celebrity and corruption is a perfectly rational response.

On Electric – an album that entirely lives up to its name if what you want to hear is Thompson's distinct and virtuosic plugged-in guitar style – the songwriting reaches a pinnacle of direct and wry commentary. From the opening Stony Ground, through Good Things Happen To Bad People and the bitterly melodic Another Small Thing In Her Favour to the resigned self-knowledge of Saving The Good Stuff For You, this is an album of compact masterpieces, with a clarity of purpose that is rare. That is helped by Buddy Miller's production work and the team of musicians around him, with Sioibhan Maher Kennedy and (on one track) Alison Krause the crucial vocal foils. Songs that didn't fit the plan are still included, on a bonus disc that seems designed to acquaint new listeners with Thompson's broader practice. This might be an album that wins him new fans – my only complaint is that it deserves classier packaging.

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