Linda Thompson is probably best known for the albums she recorded with her husband Richard Thompson in the '70s and early '80s. They divorced, and Thompson has maintained a sporadic solo career. Her new album is a family affair, featuring some accompaniment by her ex-husband, and some songs written with her son, the singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson.
"It Won't Be Long Now" ends Won't Be Long Now, but it can stand as a kind of explanation — a manifesto, were this assiduously modest woman inclined to such things — of the state of mind she's in throughout this album. It's very much the song of a performer in her mid-60s, deciding that there's no time or sense in holding anything back. And so she offers playful, unique songs such as "Mr. Tams," a tip of her hat to her friend, the actor-musician John Tams, in a melody that sounds like an old English folk song.
Throughout Won't Be Long, Thompson's voice is both strong and delicate. The album favors simple arrangements that showcase Linda's precise yet fluid phrasing. You can hear a fine example of this on the swirlingly beautiful song that commences this collection, an original called "Love's for Babies and Fools." In her liner notes, Thompson says she wrote it for Rufus Wainwright — one of Linda's close friends was his mother, Kate McGarrigle. Oh, and Linda's ex-husband Richard plays acoustic guitar on this. "Love's for Babies and Fools" has a lovely, funny, bittersweet quality.
It's one thing to invite your family to join in in recording an album. It's another level of happy generosity when Thompson puts her three children, Teddy, Kami and Muna, singing in harmony at the start of Anna McGarrigle's "As Fast My Feet." Then she lets Kami continue to sing the lead, with Linda relegating herself to backup vocals. Mother's pride and a good result all around.
There are many times here when Won't Be Long Now achieves a kind of instant timelessness. It sounds like a collection of songs that could have been sung a hundred years ago, or written and recorded just a few weeks ago. Given how infrequently Linda Thompson records, we should feel all the more lucky she's decided to let loose with these songs of love's fate and no regrets.