Essentials: The Top 10 Teddy Thompson songs

When it came time for me to choose a new subject for ‘Essentials’, I could lie and say I had an epiphany or picked an artist I’d been long-gestating, but in actual fact, I saw that Rick Bayles had chosen Teddy’s father Richard, so my logical next thought was: “I like Teddy Thompson, that would be fun to write.”

For anyone unfamiliar with Thompson’s brand of americana, I think it might best be described as personal and introspective, confident but without ever being showy. His self-titled debut was released in 2000, followed five years later with the more seminal ‘Separate Ways’. The mid-00s was a time of creative wealth for Thompson, with classic country covers album ‘Upfront & Down Low’ released in 2007, ‘A Piece of What You Need’ following in 2008, and ‘Bella’ in 2011. Aside from a few compilation contributions, the only thing Thompson would then put out until 2020’s ‘Heartbreaker Please’ was ‘Little Windows’ in 2016, a snappy album of duets with Kelly Jones (the American female singer, not to be confused with the Welsh Stereophonics frontman). While ‘Heartbreaker Please’ is the last original material he released, he did duet with Jenni Muldaur on a couple of thoroughly enjoyable EPs of covers in 2021 (‘Teddy & Jenni do Dolly & Porter’ and ‘Teddy & Jenni do George & Tammy‘).

So, here we are then with what I consider to be the top 10 essential tracks by Teddy Thompson – and if anyone needs any further inspiration, I’ll just note here that his mother Linda and sister Kami – of The Rails – are both yet to be featured.

Number 10: ‘Everybody Move It’ from ‘Separate Ways’ (2005)
Written by Thompson from the point of view of his friend Rufus Wainwright, ‘Everybody Move It’ sees Thompson vocalise Wainwright’s complaints about Thompson’s reluctance to engage at parties. “Sat in the corner you could pass for dead / Get up on the floor shake your head,” Thompsons chastises himself from Wainwright’s perspective. “If you’d rather be home you can leave right now / This is a party, no frowns allowed.”

Number 9: ‘She Thinks I Still Care’ from ‘Upfront & Down Low’ (2007)
Written by Dickey Lee but made famous by George Jones, Thompson’s take removes the facade of peppiness from the original, instead it’s drenched in strings and full melancholy, in the most emotive and effective of ways.

Number 8: ‘Record Player’ from ‘Heartbreaker Please’ (2020)
If you’re reading this, you probably have a taste for music that is considered by some to be a little left of field, and thus, ‘Record Player’ will likely be as relatable to you as it is to me. “Where are the songs that I love / Where is the music that I care for / Is it only in my head / Or on my record player,” Thompson bemoans on the chorus.

Number 7: ‘In My Arms’ from ‘A Piece of What You Need’ (2011)
Thompson can never be accused of not being self-aware. “Not an easy place to be / In my arms / Not a simple space to feel free / In my arms,” he sings, fully aware that if we take many of his other lyrics as biographical, he is not an easy partner to have in a relationship.

Number 6: ‘I Should Get Up’ from ‘Separate Ways’ (2005)
Songs about depression are becoming more and more common, but I’ve yet to find one that nails a particular kind wanting to hide away in the way that ‘I Should Get Up’ does. “The world goes on without me / I know it,” he sings with self insight. “No one misses / The quiet kid / And there are things / I may have missed / But living ignorance is bliss.”

Number 5: ‘Make a Wish On Me’ from ‘Little Windows’ (2016)
My only pick from the album Thompson did with Kelly Jones (although the whole thing is a high spirited delight), this is somewhat of a rarity in Thompson’s catalogue as a positive relationship song. The lyrics of always being able to trust the one you love fit perfectly with what Thompson described perfectly as “a Bo Diddley beat”.

Number 4: ‘No Idea’ from ‘Heartbreaker Please’ (2020)
One of Thompson’s most special qualities when it comes to songwriting is his capacity for unabashed honesty, and that’s just what makes ‘No Idea’ so special. “I got no idea what I’m doing / I got no idea who I am,” he admits in the opening lines. “And the therapy is helping / But I still feel mostly sad,” he adds with complete candour.

Number 3: ‘I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye’ from‘Brokeback Mountain: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ (2005)
Not a Thompson original, this song was in fact written by Bernie Taupin for the soundtrack to ‘Brokeback Mountain’; Thompson also shows up on said soundtrack doing double vocals duties with Wainwright on Roger Miller’s ‘King of the Road’, although that’s missing some of the pathos of the Taupin tune, which is – in my controversial opinion – in some ways even better than the award winning Taupin track that Emmylou Harris performs on the same soundtrack.

Number 2: ‘Family’ from ‘Family’ (2014)
This one comes from a collaborative Thompson family album (and was actually also included by Rick on his Essential Richard Thompson tracks, and while it’s broadly credited to the whole Thompson clan, I think it’s fair to call this a Teddy Thompson song since he takes lead vocals and the lyrics very much speak of his own experience with typical frankness: “My elder sister is prettier than you’d believe / My younger sister is prettier still and can sing / And I am the middle child / The boy with red hair and no smile / Not too secure, very unsure who to be”

Number 1: ‘The Next Onefrom ‘Bella’ (2011)
When I saw Thompson live in 2016, he joked that this song was quite old now and some people might have moved on but not  him. Indeed, this is classic Thompson: He’s lonely when alone, but also with one foot out the door and one eye on the next thing when he’s in a relationship (also see ‘The One I Can’t Have’).

About Helen Jones 130 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.
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Phil in Shrewsbury

Delilah…..gloriously poignant.