common / Crossroads Weekend

Rave reviews for Billy Thompson’s newest CD

Billy Thompson, celebrated blues musician and Berkeley Springs resident.Billy Thompson, celebrated blues musician and Berkeley Springs resident.

            In his sixth CD release, Billy Thompson’s Friend has set blues fans to cheering, with several music industry reviewers calling it his best to date—and that’s saying something.

            Released this past fall on the Soul Stew Records label, Friend was recorded right here in Morgan Country, with the intent of delivering, Thompson says, an ensemble in a live room setting. The result is what he calls “an open, old-school tone.”

            Along with Billy’s touring players, this CD features guest appearances by Bill Payne (Little Feat, J.J. Cale), Ron Holloway (Warren Haynes, Tedeschi/Trucks), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt, Neville Brothers), Kenny Gradney (Little Feat, Delaney & Bonnie) and Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker). The 60-minute CD Friend includes 11 original songs—some with lyrics by Thompson’s partner Kirsten Trump—and two covers.

            And blues fans are enthusiastic.   

Billy Thompson's new CD Friend has his fans cheering.Billy Thompson's new CD Friend has his fans cheering.

            Bman’s Blues Report says, “This is one of the most enjoyable releases that I have had the pleasure of reviewing this year.”

            Bentley’s Bandstand raves, “When Thompson pulls out Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine," it's clear the man is not kidding. Thompson's guitar is a blues-burner, and he has the taste to know when to turn it on and when to let the silence do the talking. He also can sing with the pain and power of the survivor he is. It's all there.

            Billtown Blues acclaims, “Thompson’s sixth release to date is perhaps his finest work to date…hard to imagine, given the caliber of his earlier work.”

            From the San Diego Blues Society, “Any Billy Thompson CD is welcomed with open arms, simply because he is a great guitarist, soulful singer and creative songwriter. The former San Diegan certainly doesn’t disappoint on this latest outing.”

            Thompson’s played for audiences across the U.S. and throughout Europe, including appearances on Barbara Walter's "The View,” with the San Diego Symphony, for the 2002 Super Bowl celebration, and at the grand opening of L.A.'s House of Blues. 

            More recognition came with the recent announcement of Thompson’s nominations in several categories of the 28th Annual Washington Area Music Awards, known affectionately as the WAMMIE Awards. He’s up for Blues/Traditional R&B Male Vocalist, Blues/Traditional R&B Duo/Group, Blues/Traditional R&B Instrumentalist, and Blues/Traditional R&B Recording at the Feb. 16 award show (Editors' Note: we’ll keep you posted on how the awards go for Thompson).

            So how did an internationally recognized blues star come to live in Morgan County four years ago? Especially after having lived all over, growing up as an Army brat, including a long stint in San Diego before coming here?

            “Oh, for the weather, “ laughs Thompson, during the recent polar vortex. “Definitely the weather.”

            Actually, it was the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) in Shepherdstown that first brought Thompson here to be songwriter, guitarist and musical supervisor for Rose of Corazon. It’s also where he came to know his partner Kirsten.

Thompson recently took a musical turn on NPR’s Mountain Stage showcasing his blues burning slide guitar and gritty vocals.Thompson recently took a musical turn on NPR’s Mountain Stage showcasing his blues burning slide guitar and gritty vocals.

            But Thompson is clearly one of those lucky people who can be happy living any place. “I’m good anywhere,” he said. Berkeley Springs, though, does offer so much, he went on to say, like living in a rural setting, but still close to, say, Washington, D.C, where he recently played at the Newseum in a benefit for DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table, organizations that serve the neediest individuals in the nation’s capital.

            Plus, Berkeley Springs has a great artistic community, a cross-section of all kinds of people, he says. “There are great people here.”

            You can catch The Billy Thompson Band at the Ice House in Berkeley Springs on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m., in a benefit concert  for the Ice House in a show of "soul-infused, blues gumbo." Joining Thompson are Michelle Lucas (bass), Wes Lanich (keys), Eric Selby (drums), Mary Hott (vocals), Angela Petry (vocals) and special guest Ron Holloway (sax).

            The concert will also include hometown favorite and Paw Paw native Mary Hott performing songs from her upcoming release, "Shaman Lover." Thompson, Holloway, Lanich and Selby play on tracks on Hott’s inaugural effort, which Thompson helped arrange and is coproducing. For tickets to the concert, contact the Ice House, at 304-258-2300. As it will likely be a sell-out, it’s recommended that fans do not hesitate. See Crossroads Calendar http://www.morganmessenger.com/common/Crossroads_Calendar/February_2014.htmlfor more information.

            Friend is available at www.cdbaby.com/cd/billythompson13   
or on itunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/friend/id701065319, or at www.billythompsonmusic.com.

            To catch Billy Thompson and his traveling band perform the gripping blues ballad “Interlude” from Friend, check out this ArtVoiceWV short at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ84-5zljzo#t=12

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