Proxy Music would be the best name imaginable for a tribute act to the Bryan Ferry-led ensemble. However, on this occasion, it is a stylish nod to the rare vocal condition called spasmodic dysphonia that has affected Linda Thompson since the early 1980s which has limited her ability to speak and sing, meaning that all the tracks on this album are sung by other artists. The benefits of having proxies singing on her behalf, plus a contacts list to die for, is demonstrated in the quality and variety of songs and styles of the album’s eleven tracks. A huge amount of credit also needs to be given to her son, Teddy Thompson, who co-produced and helped with the music as Linda does not play an instrument. Mischievously, the proxy theme extends to the album’s cover with Linda dressed in the same outfit as the model on the cover of Roxy Music’s debut album.

The opportunities the proxies provide are displayed to full effect on opening track, ‘The Solitary Traveller’, with daughter Kami Thompson on crystal clear vocals and harmonies, following a melody led by James Walbourne’s whirling keyboards. It is an acknowledgement of the loss of her voice (part of a series of lyrical insights that can be read as autobiographical) and resourceful celebration of the single life: “I’m alone now, you think I’d be sad / No voice, no son, no man to be had / You’re wrong as can be boys, I’m solvent and free boys /All my troubles are gone.” It contrasts with a song further into the album, ‘I Used To Be Pretty’, performed with regret and yearning by Ren Harvieu which looks back with longing on younger days, “I’ve a mailbox full of bills / And a mouth full of pills / Life was easier / So much easier / When I was still pretty.” An added layer of poignancy comes with the presence of ex-husband, Richard, on guitars and harmonium on this track.

Another of the great families of folk, the Wainwrights, are represented on two songs. Martha takes vocals on the exquisite, aching piano ballad highlighting a mother’s hopes and love, ‘Or Nothing at All’ while Rufus leads the sophisticated cabaret style piano, double bass and clarinet song, ‘Darling This Will Never Do’ which would not have felt out of place on Father John Misty’s most recent studio album, ‘Chloe and the Next 20th Century’.

The tragic ‘Bonnie Lass’ sees the Reid brothers, otherwise known as The Proclaimers, take vocal duties over Aly Bain’s fiddle, arranged by Phil Cunningham, with a subtlety and gentleness unexpected to those only familiar with ‘I’m Gonna Be’. ‘John Grant’, with vocals from the eponymous hero is an incredibly meta tale of Linda’s encounter with him that captures the exquisite style of his incomparable debut ‘Queen of Denmark’ album.

Moving back to folk territory, ‘Mudlark’ is a traditional work ballad with pump organ and acoustic guitar, a great vocal arrangement featuring James Walbourne and Kami (who perform as the Rails) together with Teddy and Linda (the only track on which she has a vocal credit). ‘Shores of America, sung with great clarity by Americana performer, Dori Freeman, and decorated with banjo, fiddle and strings is a tale of desertion and shows Thompson’s way with a cutting line, possibly aimed at her ex-husband: “And if it’s true / That only the good die young / Lucky old you / ‘Cause you’ll be around until kingdom come

Eliza Carthy takes vocal duties on the highly dramatic, foot-stomping ‘That’s the Way the Polka Goes’ while the luscious Northumbrian tones of Becky and Rachel Unthank, backed by their regular accompanist, Adrian McNally, on piano, keys and drums give ‘Three Shaky Ships’ a shimmering, emotional and melodic quality.

Appropriately, the album finishes with Teddy taking centre-stage on ‘Those Damned Roches’, a celebration of folk dynasties from the Thompsons through the Coppers to the McGarrigle-Wainwrights and the Waterson-Carthys, poignantly recognising the power of music to cut through their strife: “Faraway Thompsons, tug at my heart / Can’t get along ‘cept when we’re apart… Bound together in blood and song, who can break us? / When we are singing loud and strong, who can take us?

It completes one of the most surprising albums of the year which reveals the quality and versatility of Linda Thompson’s songwriting, taking in autobiography, history and family’s tangled ties, all enhanced by her ambassadors of choice, proxies in song.

Linda Thompson: Proxy Music – Out 21st June 2024 (Story Sound Records)

Thompson featuring Teddy Thompson – Those Damn Roches (

I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.