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As a teenager in the mid-1970s, I fell deeply in love with the head-spinning range of female voices in ’60s and ’70s American and British folk music: Joan Baez, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Joan Armatrading, The Roches, The McGarrigles, Karen Dalton, Judee Sill, Judy Henske, June Tabor, Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny — and, perhaps most of all, Linda Thompson. The way the aching grain of Thompson’s voice worked in conversation with the sometimes weeping, sometimes whiplash guitar work of her celebrated husband, Richard, on such classic albums of British folk as I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Pour Down Like Silver, and the gut-wrenching Shoot Out the Lights. And then, suddenly, after just one solo album in the wake of the Thompson’s divorce, she was gone, not to be heard from again for nearly two decades. Imagine my delight when, in 2002, Rolling Stone asked me to review her now-classic comeback album, Fashionably Late. The review has since disappeared from the magazine’s website, but fortunately, I retained a copy of my original draft. I’m not sure how much this version differs from the one that made it to print, but having read over it again, it certainly expresses how I feel about the album. So I’ve decided to archive it here for posterity.

After 17 years of silence, British folksinger Linda Thompson returns

By Mark Kemp, Rolling Stone, 2002

When ex-Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson and his folksinger wife, Linda, split up in the early 1980s, the recorded document of their demise, Shoot Out the Lights, became one of British folk-rock’s greatest works. After the divorce, Linda recorded the comparatively disappointing solo album One Clear Moment — and then was silenced by a rare condition known as hysterical dysphonia, a crippling case of stage fright.

Fashionably Late, the singer’s comeback after 17 years away from the spotlight, is a long-overdue gem from one of rock & roll’s finest voices. What distinguishes Thompson from your average hippie folksinger is the elegant grain of her voice, the subtle dissonance she employs in her harmonies with other singers, and her storyteller’s knack for placing the right emphasis on the right word at the right moment.

The new album begins as a family reunion of sorts, with Linda, son Teddy, and daughter Kamila harmonizing on the cautionary ballad “Dear Mary,” and dad Richard injecting his familiar stinging guitar licks into the spaces between the voices. With a simple production style that keeps the music from being tied down to any particular pop or rock era, Fashionably Late glides from the ruthlessness of the ancient-sounding, stripped-down, acoustic murder ballad “Nine Stone Rig” to the haunting loss-of-innocence tale “The Banks of the Clyde.” There’s not a bum track on the album, but there are many highlights, including the stunning “Evona Darling,” in which Linda and Teddy sing on what must be the finest mother-son duet ever recorded; and the bittersweet closer, “Dear Old Man of Mine,” in which Teddy, Kamila, and Linda offer a biting homage to an extraordinary father and ex-husband.


In July of 2002, Linda and son Teddy appeared on Sessions at AOL to perform songs from Fashionably Late, including the hauntingly beautiful “Dear Old Man of Mine.”

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