Cover Story: (55) The Parting Glass by Wisconsin women, Voice Squad, Glen Hansard - plus Dylan and Bill Jones approximately
Phil Steele RIP: broken dreams and an affliction bravely borne

Cover Story: (56) Dimming of the Day. Richard & Linda Thompson, Alison Krauss, Mary Black, Bonnie Raitt ...

Richard Thompson virtually has a season ticket for Salut! Live's Cover Story series comparing different versions of songs. This features one of his finest compositions ....

If  Rolling Stone magazine's omission of the Pitman Poet Tommy Armstrong from its list of the greatest 100 songwriters of all time was unfortunate but understandable, leaving out Richard Thompson was arguably negligent enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

Placing Thompson in the top 10 rather than nowhere in his much more interesting alternative list, Martin Chilton* wrote in The Daily Telegraph: "Despite the emotional desolation of some of his songs, there is a wit and jollity to the music of one of the most original songwriters of the modern era."

I heartily concur, while admitting that I rather like the emotional desolation, too.

It's there in abundance in the classic Thompson tearjerker Dimming of the Day, a tale of broken love with just the merest hint of possible reconciliation.


Richard Thompson in concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY photographed by Anthony Pepitone

The live version by Richard and Linda Thompson effectively eliminates that lingering hope. It was filmed on the US tour that went ahead despite the breakdown of their marriage and there seems nothing stunted about the pain in Linda's face or voice.

"From 1974 to their split, the couple made six albums, starting with I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and culminating in Shoot Out the Lights, which was seriously good but unnerving, with its bleak songs seeming to chart a messy marital breakdown," I wrote after interviewing Linda T in 2004 (reproduced in full and well worth a read because of her answers at this link).

"Richard had been seeing an American, Nancy Covey (now his wife), and the marriage was virtually over by the time the record appeared. They went ahead with an American tour, though not without friction; Linda recalls delivering one vengeful kick to her errant husband onstage. "


I have also met Mary Black, several times and once went with her band on a jolly to Bahrain. My choice of her version of this outstanding Richard Thompson song also has a story to it. As I wrote here on a previous occasion:

"It was in Belfast. I happened to be there for work but had not been able to get to the concert.

Mary invited me to join her and the lads for drinks afterwards.

Inevitably, the music started. Everyone had their favourite Mary Black songs; to unexpected general approval, I suggested Dimming of the Day, a song I had heard Mary sing with two others (Bonnie Raitt? Dolores Keane? Maura O'Connell? Emmylou Harris? Thompson himself? Memory fails me on that one). Needless to say, the late-night rendition was perfection. Thanks for that, Mary, and for so many priceless musical moments."

Fittingly the clip is also from a Belfast performance of the song, but one she was paid for.

Alison Kraus is behind one of two American renditions of the much recorded, much covered Dimming of the Day (one amateur YouTuber described her clip as presenting her version of "the Corrs' song").

I am fond of Kraus's singing but had not heard her Dimming of the Day until I started preparing this article. It is quite beautiful and Union Station's accompaniment cannot be far short of perfection.


Finally, because so many listeners speak so highly of it, here is Bonnie Raitt's version, the significant bonus being that she is joined on stage by Thompson R for the purpose.

I do not wish to be dogmatic about a song that is so damned good that loads of artists, among whom we can count Sir Tom Jones and David Gilmore, have sought to put their mark on it.

Forced to choose, I'd put Black's exceptional performance just ahead of the warring Thompsons' but, on another day, would doubtless have that the other way round. 



* It was a great idea of Martin Chilton's to compile his rival list of top songwriters. I already knew he was something of a kindred spirit, having bumped into him at a Kate Rusby concert on the South Bank. This being the Telegraph, sloppier than in my time, the top 10 placings do not correspond to those in the full list, where you find Townes Van Zandt (2nd) Ewan MacColl (3rd), Joan Baez (14th), Shane MacGowan (19th), Ralph McTell (64th), Nanci Griffith (75th), Christy Moore (85th) and Sandy Denny (91st). Richard T is either 8th or 10th.
There are also bluesmen and Ray Charles - the subject of a future  Cover Story - is, er, 4th or 5th. Martin is now The Independent's chief book critic and if you like football, you'll love his warm, witty Tommy Doherty appreciation


Michael Goulding

Never heard any of them before, but on this showing it's Mary Black for me!

Frank Worsley

Via Facebook

Call me a sentimentalist, but it's still the original for me with LT on vocals, followed closely by the LT solo with the change of words to "my broken heart"

Colin Randall

Maybe I go for Mary Black for the not very sound reason that I know her better! But as I say in my piece, on another day I’d go for Richard and Linda live, utterly heartbreaking

Colin Randall

Michael : i also came across a live version with RT on lead vocal and Mary adding harmonies. On that Bahrain trip I mention, I was having coffee with her guitarist Declan Sinnott and said I thought Mary’s version was the best. He shook his head and said ‘Linda’.

Bill Taylor

I quite like Bonnie Raitt's version but Mary Black's does nothing for me and Alison Krause's doesn't do much. Richard and Linda Thompson's is far and away the best. I'd like to hear Richard doing it solo, though; his voice is perfectly suited to this song.

Kevin Coomb

Via Facebook

Always loved R and L and this is certainly one of their best. Play it regularly, too regularly according to my wife...

jay wilenski

Via Facebook

Love Mary Black's.

Jocelyn in NYC

The link to Linda T interview doesn't work - any chance you can fix it?

colin randall

On to that now, Jocelyn

Colin Randall

Now fixed, Jocelyn. Apologies and thanks for pointing it out.


Linda, absolutely Linda.

Martin Chilton

Via Twitter

.... I once interviewed Alison Krauss and when we talked about the lyrics of Dimming of the Day, she started crying (that was an interview first!)

Colin Randall

Whereas I recall Linda Thompson laughing her way through much of mine with her ...

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