He’s gotta crow

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS - Steve Ter­rell

You can’t ac­cuse Taos trou­ba­dour Chip­per Thomp­son of flood­ing the mar­ket with his mu­sic. His new al­bum, O How I Wish My Bad Heart Was True, is his first solo al­bum in about a dozen years. And while the wait was too long, it’s a dog­gone fine col­lec­tion of songs. In fact, it might be his best since his 1997 de­but, Strange Lul­la­bies. Lately I’m think­ing it’s his best, pe­riod.

Even though this is only his sec­ond solo al­bum this cen­tury, Thomp­son has kept busy with his cre­ative projects. He just pub­lished a novel, The Sub­stance of Things Hoped For. He’s shown his vis­ual art at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. And he’s played in a num­ber of Taos bands in the past few years, in­clud­ing Bone Or­chard, Stray Ravens, and Kim & the Ca­balleros. The lat­ter two were with his wife, Kim Treiber-Thomp­son.

Thomp­son, who’s been in Taos for 20 years or so, is a na­tive of Alabama — and his South­ern roots are read­ily ap­par­ent in his mu­sic. Lis­ten to the do­bro/man­dolin-driven stomp “I Can Talk to Crows.” The har­monies — by Chip­per and Kim — sound like some­thing recorded at some back­woods church, per­haps af­ter an in­tense round of snake han­dling. It’s ba­si­cally a mys­ti­cal brag-song, kind of a hill­billy “Hoochie Coochie Man.” One verse goes, “I can climb up a moun­tain like a hail­storm/ And my fid­dle can call down the rain and snow/I can tan­gle in your hair just like a bee swarm/And I can talk to crows.”

Although “I Can Talk to Crows” is now my fa­vorite song here, other tunes have held that honor since I first got the al­bum. “The Union Dues Blues” is an acous­tic coun­try waltz with a catchy, sin­ga­long-ready melody deal­ing with eco­nomic hard times. “If he can’t af­ford friends, a poor man is damned,” Thomp­son sings — a point well il­lus­trated by the end of the song. “Fol­low Me Down” is a slow burner that starts off with a hyp­notic drone, fol­lowed by a strange but al­lur­ing fid­dle solo. The first verse con­tin­ues at a slow pace, but starts to build up, with drums com­ing in nearly half­way through. It’s quite ef­fec­tive and beau­ti­ful. As Chip­per and Kim sing, “Won’t you sail away with me,” lis­ten­ers may be tempted to sign up.

Thomp­son shows his Ir­ish roots on “Edge of the Earth,” a nifty lit­tle jig about sail­ing to a for­eign land. I can imag­ine some Celtic-punk band like the Drop­kick Mur­phys cov­er­ing this one.

And speak­ing of rock­ers, while the ba­sis of Thomp­son’s mu­sic is folk, the boy can thun­der when he wants, as he proves with some of the songs here. “Fall­ing Off the World” be­gins with a brief banjo solo be­fore the drums and elec­tric gui­tars kick in. It’s an an­gry lit­tle tune about a ro­man­tic breakup. Later in the al­bum, there’s “Reap the Whirl­wind,” which isn’t metal, but it’s down­right heavy. “The storm is com­ing down, we’re gonna reap the whirl­wind.” It sure is good to lis­ten to new Chip­per Thomp­son songs. I just hope I don’t have to wait an­other decade to say the same.

You can find O How I Wish My Bad Heart Were True and other Thomp­son al­bums at www.cd­baby.com.

Also rec­om­mended:

▼ Broke Down Blues by Paula Rhae McDon­ald. Four or five years ago I had the plea­sure of hear­ing Paula Rhae McDon­ald sing for the first time. It was at a Frogfest Fes­ti­val, pro­duced by Santa Fe’s Frogville Records, and she was sit­ting in with Bill Hearne’s band. Ba­si­cally she nailed it, singing good old-fash­ioned honky-tonk mu­sic — cov­ers and orig­i­nals — with grace and right­eous­ness. That led me to McDon­ald’s first al­bum, Lit­tle Bird, a fine coun­try al­bum that in­cludes “Crazy as a June Bug,” which she wrote when she was eleven.

McDon­ald is back with a new record, a six-song col­lec­tion recorded at Frogville Stu­dio. But don’t ex­pect the same kind of coun­try-honky swing we heard on Lit­tle Bird. Like the ti­tle in­di­cates, this is blues — hard-edged, elec­tric blues. Whether it’s blues or coun­try, this lady is a bel­ter. She’s be­liev­able, too. When she’s di­rect­ing her lyrics at some nogood man, I can’t help but think, “I’m glad I’m not the one she’s mad at.”

With the ex­cep­tion of “Lit­tle by Lit­tle,” writ­ten by B.B. King, all the songs are McDon­ald orig­i­nals.

My fa­vorite tune at the mo­ment is “I Won’t Go and He Won’t Stay.” (She sings, “I won’t leave my happy home here in Fanta Se.”) Also no­table is the ti­tle song, which mu­si­cally is softer than the oth­ers. Though when McDon­ald sings, “He’s a low-down, broke-down fool,” it doesn’t seem soft at all.

While McDon­ald’s blues songs are a kick, I just hope she hasn’t com­pletely turned her back on honky-tonk, be­cause she’s such a fine coun­try singer. But she’s from Texas, so I sus­pect that won’t hap­pen, There will be a CD re­lease party for Broke Down

Blues at 5 p.m. on June 12 at McDon­ald’s Lit­tle Bird Gallery at the Inn at Loretto. A por­tion of all CD sales will go to ARTs­mart, which pro­vides vis­ual-arts ed­u­ca­tion statewide.

Award nom­i­nees: Both Chip­per Thomp­son and Paula Rhae McDon­ald are fi­nal­ists for 2015 New Mex­ico Mu­sic Awards. The win­ners will be an­nounced on Satur­day, May 30, at San­dia Casino & Re­sort. De­tails at www.newmex­i­co­mu­si­cawards.com. I’m still feel­ing stunned that the video for Gregg Turner’s “Satan’s Bride” was snubbed for the award last year. (I played the role of Satan’s bride’s groom.) But I’m learn­ing to ac­cept that loss — by blam­ing Turner.

CHIP­PER THOMP­SON,

who’s been in Taos for 20 years or so, is a na­tive of Alabama — and his South­ern roots are read­ily ap­par­ent in his mu­sic.

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