Teddy Thompson – My Love Of Country: Album Review

10 country classics – reworked with typical love and precision by Teddy Thompson… With a little help from some talented friends.

Release Date:  18th August 2023

Label: Chalky Sounds

Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download, Streaming  

There will, no doubt, be many ATB browsers who will be well aware that My Love Of Country isn’t the first time that Teddy Thompson has chosen to commit his love of country music to long-playing record.  He’s pretty much a lifelong devotee to the genre and he took his first deep dive into the deep well of classical country back in 2007, with his album Up Front And Down Low.  My Love of Country picks up just about where Up Front left off.  

Teddy Thompson, of course, requires little introduction.  The uber-talented offspring of the uber-talented Richard and Linda Thompson, he’s been operating in the same rarefied atmosphere as his esteemed parents since he first ascended to the scene in the early 1990s.  Since then, he’s issued a string of wonderful albums (and My Love of Country is the eighth in that sequence) as well as appearing on three of his father’s albums – including the classic Mock Tudor (1999) and persuading his mother to abandon retirement to make the long-anticipated Fashionably Late back in 2002, an album which Teddy produced.  And, lest we should forget, he was the catalyst and key player in bringing the Thompson family back together in 2014 for the exquisite Family album, a record that remains close to the turntable in our house, even after nine years.  

Teddy’s ear first attuned itself to country music when he was 10 or 11 years old and the 30-odd years that have passed since then have served to sweeten, deepen and harden that alignment.  I guess that the most difficult choices that Teddy had to make whilst coming up with titles for inclusion on My Love Of Country were less a case of ‘what to include?’ and more of a case of ‘what do I have to leave off?’  But, the choices have been made, and My Love Of Country is a refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable collection of songs from the likes of Buck Owens, Hank Cochran, Eddy Arnold, and, Cindy Walker.  He’s even managed to countrify and include a song from his dad’s pen.  

He’s not been afraid to seek help.  Producer and multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield is ever-present throughout the album, and Teddy has chosen his accompanying musicians astutely.  Charlie Drayton (drums), Byron Isaacs (bass), Jon Cowherd (piano) and the aforementioned David Mansfield (everything else, including accordion, fiddles and oodles of stunningly beautiful pedal steel provide a foundation that is respectful and true to the period of the original versions of the songs but which capture also the clarity and balance of modern studio technology.  

Teddy picks up the story: “The goal was to do it in the way that country records I love – mostly from the 60s – were made.  Everything was mapped out, with charts and string parts in place.  The musicians came in, and we cut the songs the way we did back then.  We just blazed through them.  These are all songs that I’ve known and loved for years.  That’s the real key, having them in your body for a long time, decades, really.  I didn’t really have to think at all about how to sing them, I just honoured the originals.  In my favourite era of  music, it was all about the song.  Most of the classics that I know and love were recorded by dozens and dozens of people.  And it was all in the service of the song.  I grew up with that being the most important thing.  For this record, that was a huge part of it.  I just want people to hear these songs.” 

And there’s still yet another ace yet to play, before we get around to considering the content of the album.  Harmony vocals are a massive part of the best country songs and, here, Teddy has hit the jackpot, with a host of star-studded vocalists – Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Logan Ledger and Aoife O’Donovan amongst them – to lift My Love Of Country into the very top echelon of country albums.  

But, yes, what about the music.  Well, I’m so pleased to report that My Love Of Country is a pleasure, a triumph and a delight from start to finish, a conclusion that the listener begins to form right from the opening chords of A Picture of Me Without You, the album’s opening track and its lead single.  The song, written by George Ridley and Norris D Wilson was a hit for George Strait, back in 1972 and Teddy and the gang do it full justice.  Teddy’s clear voice takes in just the right level of country inflection – without ever resorting to cliché – the instrumentation, and particularly the mix of piano and pedal steel is perfectly balanced and the backing harmonies, supplied here by Marlon Saunders, Donnie Smith, Lennie Diaz and Keith Fluitt, sound like a heavenly choir.  And, if you’re expecting that to be pattern for the whole album, you’re bang on the nail.  

Vince Gill steps forward for his first stint as harmony vocalist on Teddy’s take on Bill Anderson’s I Don’t Love You Anymore.  It’s a song I’d describe as an ‘upbeat weepie,’ and the way it’s presented here conjures vivid images of a Nashville bar-room, with the piano a-tinklin’, the fiddles a-sawin’ and the pedal steel a-wailin’.  There’s a nice twist to the lyrics, too and Teddy sings lines like “…I don’t love you anymore/ Trouble is, I don’t love you any less” with the true conviction of the abandoned lover.  

The interpretation of Buck Owens’ Cryin’ Time is a genuine album highlight.  It’s Rodney Cowell’s turn on backing vocals, and David M’s accordion gives the song a real Mexican feel.  The production is spot-on and the choice of instruments is inspired.  And the version of I Fall to Pieces – a 1961 hit for Patsy Cline – is no less supreme.  Like many of the songs on this album, Teddy manages to be both respectful and innovative; there’s lots of space in the production that allows the listener to pick out and savour each individual instrument and, to top the whole thing off, there’s more of those heavenly choir backing vocals.  

As a firm and well-established fan of Richard Thompson, I found Teddy’s version of his father’s lament to over-indulgence, I’ll Regret It All In The Morning (a track from Richard and Linda’s 1975 Hokey Pokey album) truly fascinating. Teddy presents the song as a straight country ballad, with strummed acoustic guitars and lashings of pedal steel, and, you know what, it really works.  Teddy’s arrangement and delivery adds an unexpected, yet welcome, sweetening to lines like “I’m so drunk I couldn’t care, if that’s a wig or your real hair…”  Fantastic!  

Perhaps as much as anywhere, the version of Love And Learn, a 1968 Dolly Parton song, typifies the approach taken throughout My Love of Country.  It’s soft, tuneful, instantly likeable and absolutely schmalz-free.  Aoife’s harmony vocals are wonderful, and I just LOVE that pedal steel!  Porter Wagoner and Ella Fitzgerald have both had hits with the much-covered Satisfied Mind, and Teddy’s version is the equal of either.  It’s a great song, of course and lines like “…It’s so hard to find – one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind” and “One thing is for certain, when it comes to my time/ I’ll leave this ol’ world with a satisfied mind” carry inexhaustible messages.  The song is a comfortable country waltz and, once again, the harmony vocals – this time from Logan Loedger – are spine-tingling.  

And speaking of excellent harmony vocals, you’ll expect nothing less from anyone attempting a take on an Everly Brothers song, and Kristle Warren duly obliges on Of What a Feeling.  I love the way that, with this song – probably more so than on any other song on the album – the production manages to blend the depth and clarity of 2023 with the gutsy groove of 1960.  

The rocky western swing of Is It Still Over – a 1989 hit for Randy Travis – brings the spirit of The Flying Burrito Brothers back to life.  It just may be my favourite track on an album that’s packed with memorable moments; the pedal steel soars and swoops, the fiddles weave and wail and Teddy rounds it all off with some irresistible Nashville guitar licks.  

Sometimes, you never want a good thing to come to an end, and that’s the way I felt about My Love of Country.  But, come to an end it must and, that being the case, I can’t think of a better way to round off this marvelous album than with a burst of Cindy Walker’s You Don’t Know Me.  Understated yet excellent double bass and brushed drums provide the foundation to the album’s most overt concession to orchestration, but it’s still the country vibe that shines through.  It’s a rousing close to a simply wonderful album.  

Shuffle along, Gram, Mr Cash, Burritos, Dolly, Byrds and the rest.  You need to make space for Teddy Thompson at Country’s Top Table! 

Watch the official video to A Picture of Me Without You – the lead single from the album – here:

Teddy Thompson online: Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube

If you would like to keep up with At The Barrier, you can like us on Facebook here, follow us on Twitter here, and follow us on Instagram here. We really appreciate all your support.


3 replies »

  1. While I agree the ablum is nine cuts superb, I do find the lyric “if I beat you nearly dead, I’ll regret it all in the morning” quite disturbing and it ruins the track from Richard Thompson for me. I’ll be skipping it for future plays. Sounds far too much like the words of a domestic violence abuser the next day.

    • Hi Larry – thanks for the comment. I have to admit that I, too, found that particular line disturbing when I first heard I’ll Regret it All in the Morning on Richard & Linda’s Hokey Pokey album, back in 1975.

      I’ve since come to terms with a belief that Richard is playing a part – that of a violent, confused, sozzled individual, and is reflecting upon situations that, like it or not, happened then – and continue to happen now. I’m not trying to excuse the lyric and, if you continue to find it disturbing, it’s best that you do skip the track. But, sadly, it’s an observation of a reality that affects the lives of many people. And, as we know, RT was never one to shy away from reality.

  2. Great article! 1972 A Picture of Me Without You is by George Jones not George Strait. No worries, both great country singers!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.