COMMENTS:  Characteristically, Richard Thompson songs exhibit a quality of downtrodden but unshakeable stately dignity.  The cheapest dumbed down version of this would be to say that someone is "poor but proud."

In the melody, the measured beats, words and vocal performance, many of his songs sound like they come from the drawing room of a nobleman who happens to have neither title, money, nor castle.

"When I Get to the Border" seems like some kind of stately march, a measured but exuberant processional leading to some long anticipated and joyous occassion.  Death turns out to be the joyous occassion and cause for celebration. 

Most of the lyrics detail some of the varied indignities he looks forward to escaping.  "Dirty people take what's mine/ I can leave them all behind/ They can never cross that line/ When I get to the border."  He says this not morbidly at all, but with a joyous anticipation.  "If you see a box of pine/ With a name that looks like mine/ You can say I drowned in a barrel of wine/ When I got to the border." 

Besides the great tune and interesting lyrics, this record boasts an outstanding arrangement.  Besides the basic drums and bass,  it has several instruments adding distinctive touches of uncommon sounds.  I'm not even sure what some of the instruments are, but they probably include an accordian, perhaps flute and other things. 

Fans of Richard Thompson get to hear so much brilliant and unique guitar playing that they may not always notice it.  He has designed a few of his songs as guitar showcases, but mostly emphasizes songwriting over mere instrumental virtuosity.  He plays so brilliantly, though, that often he ends up with a guitar commentary running beneath the surface of his songs that could stand up as another whole melodic statement, or a separate song.  Listen closely here for that aspect, especially in the extended instrumental coda.


DVD Review: Tony Palmer's Film of Fairport Convention & Matthews Southern Comfort


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Richard Thompson

Music Sustains the Soul

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