New Billy Thompson CD full of great bluesy songs
Billy Thompson will celebrate his new album, A Better Man, with a CD release party at Earthdog Cafe in Berkeley Springs this Saturday night, December 18.
A Better Man is the fifth CD for Thompson, whose professional career stretches back more than 30 years in blues and rock. He has backed or opened for everyone from B. B. King and Albert King to Joe Cocker and the Neville Brothers.
Originally from San Diego, the singer-guitarist settled in Berkeley Springs a few years ago. Judging from the music on A Better Man, the move was a good one for him.
The opening rocker “Are You Ready?” sets the mood, showing off not only Thompson’s tasty guitar work, but the interplay of his soulful vocals with the guitar lines, as in the work of the classic bluesmen.
Unlike many of today’s blues bands, which recycle the old standards, all of Thompson’s 13 songs are originals. Some break the typical blues mold with their contemporary lyrics and more complex melodies.
A highpoint of the CD is “Born Again,” a lovely tune with lyrics by Kirsten Trump of Berkeley Springs, who also wrote the words for four other songs on the disc.
“Born Again,” with its fresh take on a love song and its warm use of voices, would make a perfect number for someone like Bonnie Raitt.
Another touching one is “Johnny Is a Cloud,” written in memory of an artist friend, whose work is included in the cover art.
Mixed in with such pieces are playful tunes like “Noreen,” with some clever guitar, strutters like “Met My Match” with the Texicali Horns, and “Up In The Morning” where Thompson blows some harmonica, too.
The CD was produced by Tony Braunagel, the drummer in the Robert Cray Band, and includes backup by a bunch of topnotch experienced musicians who have played with the likes of Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Crosby Stills & Nash, and many others.
“I’ve known Billy for 15 years or so and was always attracted to his songwriting,” Braunagel said. “I ran into him on the road and said, ‘Why don’t we make a record on you?’ I got my team in L.A. to show up and everybody brought talents to the recording sessions because they were so impressed by Billy. We had a ball.”
Those who hear the finished product will have a ball, too.