Review: Teddy Thompson, Memorial Hall

WITH his fifth album released this week and in the middle of an extensive UK tour, Teddy Thompson continues his gradual climb of the ladder towards popular as well as critical acclaim.

The latest offering, Bella, not only underlines his penchant for short, melodic and lyrically sharp songs, but takes it a step further thanks to lush string arrangements.

On stage, too, the addition of violinist Jessie Nelson and keyboard player David Ford (an eye and ear-catching support act imaginatively deploying a range of instruments and technical effects) means that the material can be more finely layered.

Not that this always produces the most effective results. As befits the son of Richard and Linda, Teddy Thompson can connect with his audience at the most fundamental of levels, exemplified most effectively when he steps away from the microphone, on his own, at the end, to almost whisper the words of Home amid pin-drop silence.

The set has a splendid acoustic interlude that highlights his skills as both a writer and the sweetest of singers.

Yet it’s little pop gems that are beginning to make his name, with the new single Looking For A Girl already a standard on Radio 2 thanks to its immediacy and words such as “Guess it’s good lovin’ that I want the most, Someone who turns my bread into buttered toast”.

The Thompson gene results in plenty of self-deprecation and gorgeous lyrical turns. Love songs are littered with tales of heartbreak that suggest a master country musician at work, so much so that a Buddy Holly tribute, It’s So Easy, to mark the anniversary of his death, fits in seamlessly.

Tell Me What You Want is a duet with Jessie Nelson – on the album Jenni Muldaur – and is another slice of well matured pop from Bella.

There’s even a version of Abba’s Super Trouper – just voices and one acoustic guitar – for an encore, as if to emphasise a willingness to embrace the best of the popular music tradition.

If you are looking for comparisons, think in terms of the likes of Chris Isaac and Roy Orbison, but Teddy Thompson is getting there very much in his own right.

Peter Kay