Summary

The title is artless and blunt but it gets the job done: it makes it clear that after a decade or so of concentrating on his acoustic guitar, Richard Thompson has returned to his electric. Not that Electric is entirely recorded on a Stratocaster -- he plucks away at an acoustic for "The Snow Goose" and there are other songs where the Strat is tucked away in its case -- but Electric crackles with an amplified energy, even when the instrumentation is decidedly quieter. Much of this is due to Thompson's decision to record the album at Buddy Miller's intimate home studio in Nashville, as Miller favors a speedy solution to recording, favoring vibe over perfection. As such, there's atmosphere and air to spare on Electric -- it's music that breathes, never feeling suffocated -- and there's plenty of room for Thompson to spin out spiraling guitar leads, but the focus isn't on his peerless playing or even his sharply crafted songwriting, which is once again finely observed and richly detailed. No, the distinguishing character of Electric is its feel, how Miller creates a wide-open space for Thompson, a vista that showcases his crackling musicianship and sharp songs. And Thompson has yet another strong set of songs here, highlighted by the big-footed stomp of "Stony Ground," the lacerating wit of "Sally B," the sardonic resignation of "Good Things Happen to Bad People," and the gentle lilt on "Salford Sunday." As good as the songs are, the distinguishing characteristic of Electric is its atmosphere, how the music jumps and breathes, how Miller has given Thompson his liveliest album in years and, on just sheer sonic terms, his best in a while, too. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine