Teddy Thompson, Water Rats, London

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The Independent Culture

This all adds up, because Teddy is also friendly with the Wainwright siblings, Rufus and Martha. Theirs is an extended social circle in which music is a genetic gift as well as a craft, and when Thompson opens with "Shine So Bright", his voice and acoustic guitar-picking arrow-true, the hubbub in the Water Rats goes quiet.

Dressed in black shirt and jeans, Thompson is no showman and says little between songs, preferring to let the stark intimacy of his material cast its spell. "Everybody Move It" (the Wainwrights guest on the album version) is a kind of gentle square-dance whose lyric seems like a critique on the "have a good time, all the time" scene. Is Thompson part of such a scene in Manhattan, perhaps?

The notion that the path of excess might lead to the palace of wisdom seems to be one of which Thompson is variously critical and enamoured. "Bon Jovi Said" - "It's like Bon Jovi said/ I'll sleep when I'm dead" - cribs a vacuous stadium-rock lyric and then squeezes poignancy from it, but the song "Altered State", from the new album - "I like to live in an altered state/ It makes me love all the things I hate" - seems unequivocal. However he lives his life, Thompson is that most welcome of things: a songwriter with stuff to say, and a fresh way of saying it.

His encores, when they come, are deserved and welcome, but Thompson had played his trump card much earlier. The title-track from his break-up themed album is a modern classic; the kind of aching, seamlessly constructed song that would once have constituted a very good day's work for Tin Pan Alley's finest. As its vocally demanding middle section approached, I wondered whether Thompson would chicken out of any of the notes. He didn't.

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