In 2017, Ivor Novello Award-winning and GRAMMY® Award-nominated legend Richard Thompson began composing ideas for what would become "13 Rivers" at his California home. Off the road, he focused on writing. As a result of the defined time period, the music possessed a distinct cohesion. “I wrote the songs as a group to hang together,” he elaborates. “They belong together in some way and seem to possess a commonality since they were written in the same time and space. I never really think about what songs mean,” he admits. “I just write them. Some of them reflect on what happened a few months ago or even a year ago. It’s a process of surveying my life and where I was at.”
13 Rivers commences on the tribal percussion and guitar rustle of “The Storm Won’t Come” as the artist bellows, “I’m looking for a storm to blow through town.” The energy mounts before climaxing on a lyrical electric lead rife with airy bends and succinct shredding.
“Obviously it's been a stressful couple of years,” he sighs. “The song references wanting to change your life - but it’s a difficult undertaking. You have to wait for it to happen naturally. You can’t force it. The are 13 songs on the record, and each one is like a river,” he explains. “Some flow faster than others. Some follow a slow and winding current. They all culminate on this one body of work.”
In many ways, his career has pointed towards such a statement. Powered by evocative songcraft, jaw-dropping guitar playing and indefinable spirit, this venerable icon holds a coveted spot on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and counts a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association in Nashville, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BBC Awards among his many accolades. 2011 saw Thompson garner an OBE (Order of the British Empire) personally bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Moreover, Time touted his anthem, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” on its “100 Greatest Songs Since 1923” list.
Thompson’s influence can’t be overstated. Everybody from Robert Plant, Don Henley, and Elvis Costello to REM, Sleater-Kinney and David Byrne have covered his music. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy jumped at the chance to produce 2015’s "Still" - which earned plaudits from Pitchfork, The Guardian, Rolling Stone and more. Meanwhile, Werner Herzog tapped him for the soundtrack to Grizzly Man. He launched his career by co-founding trailblazing rock outfit Fairport Convention, responsible for igniting a British Folk Rock movement.
However, 13 Rivers represents another high watermark. “The songs are a surprise in a good way,” he leaves off. “They came to me as a surprise in a dark time. They reflected my emotions in an oblique manner that I’ll never truly understand. It’s as if they’d been channeled from somewhere else. You find deeper meaning in the best records as time goes on. The reward comes later.”