Lowell Thompson captures heartache

 

Lowell Thompson is a Burlington-based, alternative country artist focused on expanding his horizons. 

Thompson recently spent several months in Austin, Texas making his living by playing music. 

Shortly after his return to Burlington, he took off for a tour in Europe with another Vermont artist, Kelly Ravin. What a life.

Thompson’s most recent album, “Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot,” was released in 2009 and is an inspired album. From the first angry, sarcastic track “Last Girl” to the longing finish “Julianne, Wait,” Thompson’s craft is a heartache in all the good ways. 

The album features many ‘greats’ native to Vermont including Page McConnell of Phish, Grace Potter and Mark Spencer. 

The carefully planned instrumentation and outstanding musicianship create a complete album that sounds like it could all be about one girl, rather than a medley of experiences. 

In eight tracks, Thompson goes through different stages of heartache: denial, heartbreak, rejection, love, competition, justification, confusion and longing.  

From the kickoff, Thompson’s “Last Girl” gets the listener moving. 

While each song holds a new emotion, one thing remains the same: Kirk Flanagan’s bass emphasizes Steve Hadeka’s flawless drumming perfectly. Flanagan is just creative enough to be noticed and just understated enough to blend right in. 

This rhythm section — accompanied by rigorous guitar lines — works with Thompson’s lyrics to enliven the listener, while Bill Mullins’ guitar solos give an additional kick wherever they are placed. 

In fact, all the tracks ride an energetic vibe except for “Sleep,” an evocative mix of acoustic guitars, lap steel and Thompson’s voice pouring over the listener like honey, with Grace Potter’s harmony sending shivers down the spine. 

Thompson clearly has a great band together. However, his greatest asset is his writing. 

Clear, straightforward and image-provoking rhymes mingle perfectly with Thompson’s drawling voice and unique guitar playing: electric-muted-rapid-single-note-picking within chords. His Steve Earle-esque voice doesn’t hurt, either. 

While Thompson’s lyrical style is typically country, involving lots of love, heartbreak and drinking, his musical style leans quite a bit toward rock in this album. 

Though he incorporates lap steel on a of couple tracks, the guitar tones are comparable to those of Jon Bon Jovi or early Wilco. 

The guitar’s tonality, paired with the driving drum-line contrasts, with delightfully simple bass parts to create a subgenre you can’t quite put a label on: alternative, rock, country and just enough pop to get stuck in your head. 

Pouring out your soul can be tough. Lowell Thompson comes by it naturally. 

Thompson has recently returned from a European tour, according to his myspace page.

His next album is due out early next year, and his 2006 and 2009 releases can be found on iTunes or at www.lowellthompson.com along with his live show schedule. 

Thompson will be performing a New Years show with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals as well as appearing at the First Night Burlington festivities.