No review of a Richard Thompson album is complete without a plea for a larger audience to discover his rare virtues. But it's probably time to let that vain hope go. In the course of more than three decades — beginning with Fairport Convention, continuing with his former wife, Linda Thompson, and culminating in his distinguished solo career — the singer-songwriter-guitarist has gone about creating superb music in accordance with his own tastes and with no regard for trends. He continues to do so on his fine new album, Mock Tudor. Producers Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf (Beck, Foo Fighters) toughen Thompson's sound a bit. On the opening track, "Cooksferry Queen," a harmonica solo bathes in distortion, and the rhythm section lights a fire under "Two-Faced Love." "Hard on Me," meanwhile, is a six-minute tour de force in which Thompson takes two slash-and-burn guitar solos. Beyond that, Thompson mines the veins that have always replenished him. His melodies recall timeless ballads, while his playing — sometimes set in tricky (but not showy) time signatures — moves among jazz inventiveness, folk resonance and rock & roll power. He's so deft that his extraordinary originality seems utterly natural.
In his many songs about broken romance ("Uninhabited Man," "Dry My Tears and Move On"), Thompson views love as a kind of perceptual problem: How can you trust what's in front of your eyes when you've so often been deceived — and been a deceiver? The difficulty of recognizing the real thing, of course, has implications for the fate of the wryly titled Mock Tudor, as well — implications that Richard Thompson will no doubt ignore as he goes on making spellbinding music for whoever cares to hear it.