Tom Stechschulte brings a gruff warmth and intimacy to his performance of Hayden Childs’ highly personal, idiosyncratic look at Richard and Linda Thompson's folk-rock classic Shoot Out the Lights.
Unable to interview his subjects, Childs chooses to enrich his song-by-song analysis of the 1982 album with a fictional narrative of a musical duo named Bonny and Virgil, whose topsy-turvy career and tormented relationship mirrors not only the Thompsons, who split up during the production of this work, but also echoes Dante’s Inferno.
Stechschulte performs this freewheeling work of criticism briskly, channeling the masculine bravado of a 70s-era rock critic.
In the fall of 1980 Richard and Linda Thompson (of Fairport Convention fame) had recently been dumped from their record label and were on the verge of divorce. Somehow they overcame these miserable circumstances and managed to make an album considered by many to be a masterpiece. Shoot Out The Lights puts the album - from the personal history driving the songs, to the recording difficulties they encountered and the subsequent fall-out - in context. This is a brilliant, emotional book about a brilliant, emotional album.
33 and a Third books are quite hit or miss. Because the series is so loosely defined in terms of what exactly you're getting, there's a big potential for disappointment and the book falling flat.
This one strikes a great balance between analysis of the music, history of the music makers and the author's story of why this album matters to him. All three elements are very interesting and engaging, and nothing feels superfluous. If you love this record, you'll love this book too.