Dan J. Szczesny
first acoustic release of all-original material finds him trading the
guitar brilliance of his early work for an emphasis on storytelling and
As such, Front Parlour
Ballads may disappoint fans not expecting such a stripped-down approach,
but those fans need to listen closer.
Thompson plays nearly
everything on the album but the music is merely accompaniment to the
stories and the mood. From the Victorian atmosphere of such tunes as
“Cressida” to the traditional English folk balladry of “Row, Boys, Row,”
Thompson bares his writing soul.
The result is mixed
only by self-referential standards. One or two songs on the album feel
like throwaways, “For Whose Sake” with its repetitive chorus or the
deeply felt but ultimately smarmy “My Soul, My Soul” for example.
Like any good
balladeer, the vast majority of Thompson’s songs on “Front Parlour
Ballads” are droll and stately and deal with remorse, unrequited love
For example, on “Old
Thames Side,” Thompson defends falling in love with a simple girl. The
deceptively simple arrangement, accompanied by a chorus charged with
longing, makes this an easy classic and the best on the album.
Front Parlour Ballads
is an album to be listened to; the songs can be read as poems as easily
as lyrics. It’s heartening to know that after four decades, Thompson’s
knack for songwriting is as strong and polished as its ever been.