David Browne
July 29, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Fashionably Late

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Linda Thompson
guest performer
Richard Thompson
Producers
Rounder

We gave it an B+

The title of Linda Thompson’s latest, Fashionably Late, dryly refers to the surprising but welcome return from Richard’s once-retired ex. Thompson’s first album since Ronald Reagan’s presidency finds the noble stoicism and cautious warmth of her voice remarkably intact.

For the faithful, her unexpected reunion with Richard on ”Dear Mary” is a must-hear; the blend of his coiled-up guitar and her merry jab at a heartbreaker is pure pleasure. The rest of ”Late” is even more austere, its songs about death and despairing prostitutes framed by simple, Celtic woodsiness. But the rueful Thompson also adds dollops of dark humor (”Weary Life”) and folk cabaret (”Paint & Powder Beauty,” cowritten with Rufus Wainwright). ”Late” is an intentionally understated yet inviting album befitting her subdued reentry; let’s hope she sticks around longer this time.

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