Teddy Thompson began a recent concert by singing George Jones ‘ 1972 hit “A Picture of Me (Without You),” and smiled as the crowd applauded.
“That’s a new song I just wrote,” he joked.
Well, no. But Thompson puts his stamp on that tune and nine other classics on his latest project, an album of covers: “My Love of Country.”
Country music is in Thompson’s DNA, even though he was born in London. His parents, Richard and Linda Thompson, are revered British folk rockers who found room for such Nashville standards as “Together Again” and “Honky Tonk Blues” in their 1970s stage shows.
Their son has long been partial to classic country, and his zeal for the peal of a pedal steel — and mandolin, and fiddle — is evident on “My Love of Country.” Thompson’s disciplined, almost reverent interpretations shun showboating in the vocals or arrangements; his vibrant tenor is more than enough to make the songs shimmer.
Most are weepers. They range from Patsy Cline tunes and the Charlie Louvin hit “I Don’t Love You Anymore” to more unpredictable selections, including “I’ll Regret It All in the Morning,” a drinking song written by Teddy’s dad.
Among those contributing backing vocals are Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and Aoife O’Donovan. Producer David Mansfield provides subtle support on multiple instruments while keeping the focus on the lead singer.
Thompson finds a Scottish lilt in Buck Owens ‘ “Crying Time,” makes octave leaps seem effortless on “I Fall to Pieces,” and elsewhere evokes Roy Orbison.
He saves his best for last: a lovely version of “You Don’t Know Me.” On the final verse, Thompson climbs the scale but resists any temptation to let loose, his artful restraint somehow making the moment more moving.
STEVEN WINE, MDT/AP