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Album Review

Richard Thompson, 'Dream Attic'

August 30, 2010

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Richard Thompson songs traditionally come in two varieties: uptempo rockabilly numbers inscribed with his trademark furious guitar solos, and creeping ballads that highlight both the quiet intensity of his playing and the staccato vehemence of his lyrics. His latest album of new material, recorded on tour this year, emphasizes the exuberance of his band’s live attack, favoring the “Voltage Enhanced’’ (as a subtitle on his 1996 album “You? Me? Us?’’ has it) side of his approach over the “Nude’’ sound. Thompson’s playing is as fierce as ever, and his band (which includes multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn) are tight and focused in this setting. Too bad, then, that the songs feel more like Thompson treading water, snipping bits and pieces of past favorites — a guitar solo here, a vocal sneer there — into new songs that lack personality. “The Money Shuffle’’ and “Burning Man’’ feel like rehashed variations on familiar themes. Only “Sidney Wells,’’ a tale of love and murder in the vein of Thompson’s classic “Shane and Dixie,’’ meets the legendary singer-songwriter’s lofty standards. (Out tomorrow)

SAUL AUSTERLITZ

ESSENTIAL “Sidney Wells’’

Thompson performs tonight at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River.