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Linda Thompson – New album ‘Proxy Music’ ft. Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Eliza Carthy, The Proclaimers, John Grant, Dori Freeman, The Unthanks, Ren Havieu + more

Jun 5, 2024




Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, The Proclaimers, John Grant, Eliza Carthy, Teddy & Kami Thompson are among the guest vocalists on this unusual song cycle arriving June 21st

Linda Thompson didn’t have a grand plan to make an album. She simply wanted to record some songs she wrote that she felt suited certain singers. However, once she had the title, Proxy Music, “I jolly well had to use it!” explained the much-lauded British musician. This unique tribute album, due June 21, features the 11 tracks that are sung ‘by proxy’ – by musicians she selected: The Proclaimers, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, John Grant, Dori Freeman, The Unthanks, Ren Havieu, and Eliza Carthy as well as her children, Kami Thompson and Teddy Thompson (who co-produced the album).

The ”proxy” theme also extends to the album’s striking artwork with Linda Thompson dressed up in the same outfit that was worn by the model on the famous cover of Roxy Music’s debut record. The clever design concept reveals Thompson’s sharp sense of humour that can be overlooked in her often dark-hued music.

While Thompson has frequently been hailed for her singing prowess (Rolling Stone once declared her “one of rock and roll’s finest voices”), Proxy Music provides an impressive showcase for her immense songwriting range and talent. Songs like “Bonnie Lass” (performed by The Proclaimers) and “Mudlark” (performed by The Rails) could easily be mistaken for traditional English folk ballads, while “Darling This Will Never Do” (sung by Rufus Wainwright) feels drawn from an early 20th century cabaret songbook. “John Grant” (sung by John Grant himself) is a modern, real-life encounter that sublimely melds humour and poignancy. “Those Damn Roches” (with Teddy Thompson on lead vocals plus a coterie of backing vocalists) majestically presents a richly evocative, highly personal portrait of folk music familial dynasties: The Roches, Wainwrights, McGarrigles, Watersons, Carthys, Coppers, and, of course, the Thompsons.

The album’s genesis, in fact, began when Thompson sent the song, “Or Nothing at All” to Teddy, telling him: “I dream of Martha Wainwright singing it” – as well as asking him to record it. After recording that song with Martha, Teddy continued to work with his mother on several more tunes. The song ideas all came from her, Teddy shares, adding that he mainly helped with the music since she doesn’t play an instrument. The recordings proceeded on a song-by-song basis with Linda and Teddy deciding who they should ask to sing each tune. Linda was thrilled that they got everyone that they wanted. “Nobody was a second choice,” Teddy elaborated. ”Everybody was somebody we felt was right for the song.”

Some adventures did arise while bringing this project to life. When it was time for the Proclaimers to record “Bonnie Lass,” the song wasn’t done yet. Teddy remembers taking the train to Edinburgh with his mom and his nephew, guitarist Zak Hobbs, and feverishly trying to finish the lyrics in the moving railcar while surrounded by the other passengers. The song “John Grant” presented challenges too. Teddy, who is based in New York City, had trouble getting the Iceland-based John Grant to NYC to record. Linda provided the solution. “Just go to Reykjavik and do it there,” she told Teddy. “I’ll pay for it.” “That’s how she thinks,” he states. “And it’s great because she just gets it done.”  She also praises Teddy for organizing the project and doing the yeoman’s share of the producing work along with noted engineer/producer Ed Haber. “Teddy did a lot of heavy lifting for me,” Thompson is quick to elaborate. “I need his energy.”

For several songs, Thompson collaborated with other members of her family and friend circle. Her daughter Kami and son-in-law James Walbourne (who perform as the Rails) co-wrote “The Solitary Traveller” and “Mudlark”. Thompson loved the needed energy and vibe UK folk singer, and life-long friend, Eliza Carthy brought to “That’s the Way the Polka Goes.” A newer pal, British singer/songwriter Charlie Dore, helped to flesh out “Or Nothing at All.” For the track, “Three Shaky Ships,” Linda turned to her ex-husband and former musical partner, Richard Thompson. “I already had a tune which keeps replaying in my head,” Linda shares. “He did a great job.” She also describes the moody rendition by the British folk group, the Unthanks, as being “outstanding.” Thompson connected the tune “Shores of America” with Americana singer/songwriter Dori Freeman through Teddy, who had previously produced the Americana singer/songwriter. It was through her grandson Zak that she hooked up with Ren Harvieu, whose heart-aching rendition of “I Used To Be So Pretty” features Richard Thompson on harmonium and guitars.

The reason behind Thompson not singing her own songs is because she has a rare vocal condition known as spasmodic dysphonia which affects a person’s ability to talk and sing. The symptoms first affected her in the early 1980s at a time when she had garnered great acclaim for the series of albums she had made with Richard Thompson (1982’s Shoot Out the Lights, for example, has ranked among the 80s top albums). Following her 1985 solo debut One Clear Moment, Thompson’s next albums didn’t appear until the 21st century – Fashionably Late (2002), Versatile Heart (2007), and Won’t Be Long Now (2013) – although each one received critical accolades.

Linda Thompson’s most recent recordings appeared on Family, a 2014 album that was an all-Thompson effort. “Music in my family,” Thompson shares, “is like glue. It binds us. Quite hard to wash off though!” One standout example of the Thompson family’s musical glue on Proxy Music is “Mudlark.” The tune, which was recorded at Thompson’s own home, features vocals by her children, Teddy & Kami, and her son-in-law James as well as her only singing appearance on the album.

Populated with family and friends old and new, Proxy Music serves as a lovely salute to Linda Thompson. This set of songs are delivered through deeply personal, dynamically heartfelt performances that wonderfully spotlight Thompson’s luminescent songwriting skills.

Here’s a taste:


Proxy Music Track Listing

  1. The Solitary Traveller – Kami Thompson
  2. Or Nothing at All – Martha Wainwright
  3. Bonnie Lass – The Proclaimers
  4. Darling This Will Never Do – Rufus Wainwright
  5. I Used To Be So Pretty – Ren Harvieu
  6. John Grant – John Grant
  7. Mudlark – The Rails
  8. Shores of America – Dori Freeman
  9. That’s the Way the Polka Goes – Eliza Carthy
  10. Three Shaky Ships – The Unthanks
  11. Those Damn Roches – Teddy Thompson

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