Review Summary: Thompson, an experienced member of many jam bands, comes up with an interesting musical and lyrical concept on his second solo album.
Sometimes the stories surrounding an album and its making can gain a larger stature than the album itself or music on it. That kind of fate could easily catch up with Romantic Stories, the second solo album by Texan guitarist Marty Thompson since he himself came up with an interesting, true one.
As Marty puts it: "I started this album in 2015, in a guitar store in Munich. I went in at the beginning of a month-long backpacking trip with my family, and there were so many fabulous guitars that I simply could not decide which one to buy to take with me. So, leaving empty-handed, my daughter Sage asked if she could buy a little pink ukulele for nine Euro. Sure! Why not. Well, the rest they say is history. I wrote ten songs that summer on the pink uke. All of them different, and exploring all kinds of topics from horseflies and castles to the current identity crisis in Europe, mysterious beer, and World War II.”
Add to that the fact that besides making the two solo albums, Marty played with Col. Bruce Hampton, Jimmy Herring, Patrice Pike (Sister 7), The Toadies, Tripping Daisy, Soulhat, The Grapes, Deep Blue Something, Matchbox 20, and as is usually said ‘among others’.
The question still remains whether an interesting story and extensive musical background result in a good album. They certainly should. While the reggae-like opener “A Thud” is not truly a promise, it does immediately show crisp and confident musicianship. As the “Devil’s Bridge” and “Face of God We Climb” (particularly the latter), show, Marty may not be the world’s most distinctive singer, but his guitar chop’s a musical sense do give his music the individual character it needs.
The sound he comes up with is somewhere between Neil Young in his electrified moods and the latter-day Allman Brothers Band, particularly exemplified in “In The Devil’s Garden”, probably the strongest track on the album. Playing with the likes like the late Col. Bruce Hampton certainly shows here.
From there on, Thompson is able to keep up, both the quality of music and musicianship (he certainly knows his guitars inside and out), and makes you wonder how he turned these songs from strumming and humming along with a cheap ukulele. As he mentions, he tries to infuse his lyrics with something more than just words to be sung, with “White Piano” and the closer “Lamplight Over Prague” in that respect.
All in all, an interesting, solid and a very listenable music experience.