Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr When you hear people talk about Richard Thompson, the first thing that comes up is his guitar playing. This is to be expected; in a more just world, Thompson would be as revered as Jimi Hendrix among six-string enthusiasts. However, it’s worth considering Thompson beyond his guitar skills. As a songwriter, the man is the consummate craftsman; even his weaker efforts are impeccably constructed. What has remained constant throughout Thompson’s varied career is the solid sense of individual identity that runs through all of his work; his songs are always truly his. Even on Still, an album that features such collaborators as Jeff Tweedy, the proceedings are dominated by Thompson’s singular voice and style. Still features a noticeably different Thompson when compared to the one that we’ve seen recently. While his last few records captured the live chemistry of his touring trio, Still is a decidedly studio-crafted affair. There are definitely more hands on deck than longtime contributors Michael Jerome and Taras Prodaniuk, but Thompson’s songs are also more methodical and measured here. Whereas producer Buddy Miller encouraged Thompson to let it rip on 2013’s Electric, Tweedy seems interested in Thompson’s songwriting process. As a result, we get an album of Thompson as storyteller and troubadour, which has always been a great fit for him. The best moments on Still occur when Thompson is at his most relaxed: “Beatnik Walking” muses over the weary anger felt by a generation whose revolution may not have turned out the way that everyone wanted, while the sinewy album closer “Guitar Heroes” is the sort of idol worship song that is properly endearing as opposed to cloying. Tweedy wisely takes something of a backseat in these moments, but the producer makes himself most known when Thompson gets plugged in. I know I’m not alone in developing a distaste for the low-key, overly content and conflict-free approach to songwriting that has plagued Tweedy’s output as a songwriter, and it’s a bit discouraging that he’s encouraging this attitude out of Thompson. However, Thompson is a far more skilled craftsman who knows how to make low-key guitar rock work. As such, songs like “Broken Doll” and “Where’s Your Heart” carry a considerable weight in his hands. The latter is particularly impressive in how Thompson can still channel the acidity that characterized his brilliant early work. While he’s evolved as he’s gotten older, Thompson still has a clear idea of what works and what doesn’t in his songs. The same cannot be said of Thompson’s sense of humor. If Still stumbles at any point, it’s when Thompson decides to throw in a few novelty songs to lighten the mood. On the surface, “Long John Silver” seems like the worst offender in this regard, if only because there’s no need to write new pirate sea shanties in 2015. It’s a delight in comparison to, “All Buttoned Up,” though. Listening to a songwriter as witty and literate as Thompson moan about how his significant other won’t have sex with him is a little disappointing. It’s a human urge, sure, but one wouldn’t expect a songwriter of his caliber to reduce these feelings down to their crudest terms. Aside from those few missteps, though, Still is a predictably solid effort from Thompson. Not much has changed about his style in recent years, but not much really has to change. His virtuosity on his chosen instrument will always guarantee him some sort of loyal following, but unlike other guitar soloists of his ilk, Thompson always seems to have the songs to back it up.