Carus Thompson – Shakespeare Avenue: Album Review

Australian folk singer/songwriter and storyteller Carus Thompson launches his seventh solo album with a backup team that you’d kill for to have on the bench.

Release Date:  20th March 2020

Label:  Valve Records

Formats:  CD / DL

What we’re talking about is the luxury of having the Lakeman family in your camp; the result – you shouldn’t really go too far wrong.

And that’ s not the only connection or element of synchronicity that’s led to Shakespeare Avenue. For starters, having been a regular in the support slot for several tours with Seth, he’s taken the step of moving himself and his family to Dartmoor, home to the Lakeman clan, for the duration whilst making his new record.

It’s a move that’s the reverse of that of his Grandfather who made the reverse trip to Australia, leaving his home in Bath where he lived on…you guessed it…Shakespeare Avenue.

So have the planets aligned to cast some astral magic on a set of ten songs where Carus is backed by Seth and Sean Lakeman with Sean’s wife Kathryn Roberts on vocals and Sean adding his not inconsiderable talent in the producer’s chair.

With the promise of songs that tell the stories of characters that are real (one about Dylan Voller – the notorious Aboriginal Australian youth offender – and one about West Australian indigenous leader Yagan) and some fictional, you can appreciate why the character-based story songs of his past have been compared to Springsteen and Mellencamp.

With the quality of the musical support, you feel it’s like a sports team where the standard of your peers brings out a performance that really ups your game. From the songwriting to the delivery and on to the political, social and personal commentary there’s a class and polish that oozes forth.

Credit where it’s due. Shakespeare Avenue is packed with Thompson’s own words and finely crafted tunes. Just Lands End finds him combining with Seth at a writing level and with a musical empathy, Seth providing a melancholic viola drone.

He’s at his most narrative on Avondale Heights To Sunshine where the desire to escape the neighbourhood and its ties might owe a nod or two to the delivery of Knopfler but especially the sentiment of Springsteen’s Born To Run. It’s a bit more subtle than the freeway being jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive though. You could even hear the Boss mumbling some of these lines and the line, “A suburb’s ties they bind” that crops up on Unless We Go Now, perhaps a thinly veiled acknowledgment.

In contrast, the title track is built on the poignancy of leaving a place and not coming home – “this is my last journey” – and emphasises the strength of the relationships between ourselves and our roots. Can’t escape ’em.

There’s some particularly deft picking on Yagan (the Carus version of his namesake Richard) complemented by a little electric chord or two and a pattering of percussion. After several playthroughs, it emerges as a contender for the album highlight.

Despite the emphasis placed by the Lakeman presence and the inspiration that so obviously comes from the Dartmoor effect, Shakespeare Avenue is very much a Carus Thompson hallmarked work. Ten songs that prove his worth

Carus is on tour in the UK in May. Check online for details.

Watch the second single from the album – Ship To Come In – here:

Carus Thompson online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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