Dark winters up north, an encyclopedic knowledge of Americana mixed with punk rock sensibilities, and a heart easily broken (and re-broken) make for songs and shows that are crushing and redemptive.
It’s easy to understand why Lowell Thompson and his band Crown Pilot are getting hailed as the “next big thing” for the alt-country set. It’s hard to find a review that doesn’t include favorable comparisons to the likes of Gram Parsons, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, vintage Rolling Stones, and the various Americana revivalists that used to grace the cover of No Depression. While there’s truth to the hype, the fact is that Thompson’s music is informed as much by the names above as it is by less expected sources like Fugazi and Elvis Costello.
Thompson’s latest album entitled “Lowell Thompson and Crown Pilot” features volunteer contributions by local Vermonter’s like Phish’s Page McConnell (piano), Grace Potter (backing vocals) and Son Volt’s Mark Spencer (lap steel). The record has been garnering positive media attention at home, nationally (including Rolling Stone) and in the press across the Atlantic.
• Best Male Vocalist, Seven Days "Daisies" Readers Choice Award, 2010
• Top Albums of 2009, Burlington Free Press, 2010
• Top Ten Albums of 2009, Seven Days, 2010
• Best Shows of 2009, Burlington Free Press, 2010
• Best Albums of 2009, Vermont Public Radio, 2009
• Best Band, Seven Days “Daisies” Readers Choice Award, 2009
Lowell Thompson: guitar/vocals
Bill Mullins: guitar/vocals
Kirk Flanagan: bass
Steve Hadeka: drums
Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot (2009)
Lowell Thompson (2006)
Archibald Street (1998)
Joshua Panda (2010) *
Pete Weiss (2010) *
Scott Tournet VER LA LUZ (2013) *
Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot Record Review
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Where we last left off (OK, where I last left off, more than two years ago), Lowell Thompson was a b...Where we last left off (OK, where I last left off, more than two years ago), Lowell Thompson was a budding country-rocker — the workingman’s answer to Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams, a young journeyman with a Heart of Gold and paint-spackled pants (Thompson’s pre-musical trade was as a housepainter). Back then, our troubadour was among those lucky performers seemingly destined for fame beyond Burlington’s drinking holes. But we all know how that story goes…
Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot should be the record that breaks him nationally, but do bands even “break nationally” anymore? Noted alt-country rag No Depression is no more, and radio is a centralized jukebox of Disney pop and manufactured buttrock. Where does an earnest, twang-caked gem like Thompson’s latest fit in? It fits in your iPod, or CD player (if you still have one), that’s where.
To borrow a different “lens”: Remember when U.S. filmmakers stopped using America’s sweeping landscape as a cinematic frame and started making claustrophobic family dramas? Where’s today’s Sam Peckinpah? Or, more appropriately, where’s today’s Gram Parsons?
To be honest, Lowell and his band — which includes drummer Steve Hadeka, bassist Kirk Flanagan and Vermont axe legend Bill Mullins — aren’t as sloppy and/or stoned as vintage Parsons or Peckinpah, and that has its positives and negatives. Yet they’re certainly edgier than the vast majority of modern Americana acts. LT & CP is loaded with Stones-y swagger and Telecaster-fueled self-assertion. In other words, it rocks.
Take, for instance, “The Love You Had,” a scruffy-sad anthem that has everything a proper country-rock ditty needs: dejection, rebellion, hooks, slice o’ life lyrics and a kickass guitar solo. “Because the years run by / So slow behind your eyes / But you age so goddamn fast,” Thompson sings in his forthright but unfussy style. His work is clearly bearing the fruit of maturity and perhaps some frustration, which means his songs now sting a little. This is a good thing.
“Pauses” displays the most growth in Thompson’s songwriting. It’s a stuttering, minor-key tune that fuses Tom Petty’s more accusatory numbers with something out of the pre-“Emotional Rescue” Stones catalog. Oh, and this is one of two songs to feature Grace Potter — a bona fide Vermont singin’ star!
Bottom line: The mainstream music world badly needs records like this to bubble up from “Real America” — aka, Vermont. Ask yourself, do you really want the future of pop/rock/country music to be decided by Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus? So snap out of that “American Idol”- and corn-syrup-induced stupor, America, and buy Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot.
Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot Album Review
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Rolling Stone's recent blurb on Lowell Thompson shouldn't build false preconceptions or wayward expe...Rolling Stone's recent blurb on Lowell Thompson shouldn't build false preconceptions or wayward expectations. The Vermonter's self titled first album with the band Crown Pilot is a remarkably mature, self-assured piece of work .
"Last Girl," for instance, is a raunchy track the Rolling Stones would've been proud of in their early days (or even today). Thompson's voice carries a half-sneer,albeit a good-natured one, while Steve Hadeka's drumming impatiently pushes the whole band along. "The Love You Had" features similarly edgy guitars, played by Thompson and Bill Mullins, fitting a song of forlorn regret for an insistent urge to get on with life.
On "Green Doors," the electric chords chime in a way that mirrors the slightly smoother harmony vocals and a molten lap steel guitar by Mark Spencer that twangs ever so slightly. "Sleep" has an acoustic foundation that recalls Thompson's solo work and the winsome way he sings fully communicates his hurt as well as his devotion. Meanwhile, "Pictures" is its electric counter-part, with Mullins' quick guitar fills being the definition of economy. The track's over almost as soon as it begins, or so it seems, making you wish LT & CP would let themselves stretch out a bit more, if for no other reason than bassist Kirk Flanagan's contributions might be more evident - you don't so much hear his playing as feel it.
A couple notable sit ins occur during the course of this unfortunately all too abbreviated eight cut album, but each one adds earthy realism to the music. Grace Potter's unusually understated presence on "Pauses" renders an already ghostly track even more haunting. And Phish's Page McConnell assumes an equally unobtrusive role in the arrangement of "Play That Part:" the organ he plays flows almost surreptitiously in and around the other instruments the same way it does during "Julianne, Don't."
There might appear to be a certain sameness to the material here, if you don't notice the slight swagger to that final track. That's just one of a few subtle signs of confidence that Lowell Thompson has every right to display in this self-produced (with Rob O'Dea) collaboration with a band that shares his sense of conviction.
Yin & Twang
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Whoa. The new, self-titled album from Lowell Thompson and Crown Pilot is good. Like, really good. An...Whoa. The new, self-titled album from Lowell Thompson and Crown Pilot is good. Like, really good. And why not? Adding guest star power like Mark Spencer, Page McConnell and some chick named Grace to the already potent lineup of Bill Mullins, Kirk Flanagan and Steve Hadeka can’t really be a bad thing, right? But even more astonishing than the marquee talent gracing his new disc is the evolution of Thompson himself. Few work harder than the local alt-country troubadour, who writes and performs at a tireless clip. And his yeoman efforts have transformed a promising young tunesmith into a mature artistic force. This Friday the band celebrates the release of its new record at Nectar’s with heralded songwriter Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron).
Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot: Albums
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On his second album‚ Lowell Thompson mines deeply veins scarcely uncovered in his country flavored f...On his second album‚ Lowell Thompson mines deeply veins scarcely uncovered in his country flavored first effort. Backed by Crown Pilot‚ Thompson expresses tight‚ tough American roots rock that nods at the work of Steve Earle‚ Dave Alvin‚ and Cracker. Some might argue that it's not the time for this kind of music‚ but give a listen‚ and if you don't thrill at the sweet spot Thompson and company have found‚ step to the front of the line and turn in your rock and roll ears. The band locks on from the opening of "Last Girl‚" with an aggressive yet sublime attack fronted by Thompson's no-nonsense lyrics and rough-but-right vocals. The album's range runs from Last Girl's crunch to the Petty-esque balladry of "The Love You Had‚" the warm jangle of "Green Doors‚" and the regret-tinged "Julianne‚ Wait‚" perhaps the disc's standout. This isn't the kind of work that pushes any individual effort to the fore; the guitar work on "Pictures" delivers the kind of spot-on‚ no-frills sting that puts taste before ego. That said‚ it might be nice to see the band stretch out a bit‚ to ease up on the reins and see what might happen if they drop the constraint just a notch. Of course‚ that's what live shows are for‚ and this album will undoubtedly compel new fans to check out the band live. Timely or not‚ Thompson and Crown Pilot are making music that's worth a listen. -Gary Miller
"It's country. From the North country."
Lowell Thompson @ Rudyard's, Houston, TX
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Written by Samuel Barker Aug 14, 2008 at 09:00 PM There has to be something frightening about ...Written by Samuel Barker
Aug 14, 2008 at 09:00 PM
There has to be something frightening about flying across the country to do some recording and throwing down a couple last minute dates in lands you’ve never visited before.
Well, Vermont’s very own Lowell Thompson did this recently. He came to Texas to record some tracks in Austin and decided to schedule a date there and one in Houston. We were fortunate enough to get the heads up from our buddy and excellent guitar builder, Creston Lea, and made it out to Rudyard’s to see what the buzz in the Northeast was all about.
With nothing but an acoustic on his lap, Thompson faced an audience that had never heard any of his music. He also faced the threat of a big screen TV showing the Olympic games that was desperately trying to pull attention away from Thompson’s performance.
It was quite the ordeal to face with a first show in a city half a nation away from you home, but Thompson brought some great folksy songs with plenty of charm to go with it. He conversed with the audience between songs, toyed with a faulty pedal and kept people’s attention where it belonged, on the out of town performer.
Thompson touched on songs from his self-titled debut and some songs from a forthcoming CD, which he said would be out in October. While I was a little more clued in that some in attendance, I’d listened to his myspace tunes, I was still unaware of the majority of Thompson’s works. However, he kept my attention with his well crafted tunes. They were hooky enough to pull you into the sound and the narratives were intriguing enough to make you want to hear the story’s conclusion. There is something to be said for having that kind of storytelling ability.
A closer of Doug Sahm’s “Anyone Going to San Antone” got a few people singing along and made a nice shout-out to a local legend. Hopefully Lowell Thompson can make it back to town when his new album is released with his full band. If he does, you need to be there to check it out.
Show Of The Month
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Club Metronome has a very sexy vibe about it. With over 20 paintings of scantily clad women in provo...Club Metronome has a very sexy vibe about it. With over 20 paintings of scantily clad women in provocative poses outlining the walls, it sets a comfortable scene for intimate singer/songwriter sessions such as this one with Burlington's own version of Springsteen, Lowell Thompson. Thompson, with his John Deer hat, striking blue eyes and gentle demeanor, took to the stage with fellow songwriter Bill Mullins. The duo performed well, tightly synchronized in performance and tone.
Thompson's lyrics were filled with stories of heartbreak and loss. Lines such as "How long must I wear a loser's crown?" resonated poignantly in the large room, and were perfectly complemented by lonely, country-tinged acoustic guitar work. All the crooning caught had the ladies swaying and batting their eyes in the duo's direction. "Is It Really That Easy," with its catchy melody and toe-tapping beat, got the crowd moving even if they didn't get within 10 feet of the stage. Thompson's deep, emotive voice was at the forefront of his poppy country-based tunes, and he ended the night with a forcefully sung number that got the crowd going. While Thompson's performance could have been supplemented nicely by more vocal harmonies, the true centerpiece of his songs was the dynamic aspect of storytelling. He shined most when he meshed larger issues of heartbreak and personal catastrophe into more specific third person narratives.
Lowell Thompson @ The Living Room
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August 28th, 2007 - by John Lowell Thompson is an extremely talented young musician from Burlingt...August 28th, 2007 - by John
Lowell Thompson is an extremely talented young musician from Burlington, VT. On Saturday he made a stop at The Living Room in NYC’s east village for a special acoustic set. The Living Room is one of my favorite venues for acoustic music- intimate- and the crowd is always there to listen. Thompson treated the crowd to cuts from his excellent self titled album including “Anna,” and “Turn Me Home” in addition to some new cuts and a couple of covers from Neil Young and Gram Parsons. Bill Mullins, the guitarist from Lowell’s band, accompanied also playing acoustic. Bill took a solo on almost every cut- which typically I would find excessive at an acoustic show. But Mullins was up to the task- pulling out some very impressive and appropriate chops. Lowell plays regularly in the Burlington area but you can check him out in NYC again on September 28th at Pianos.
Lowell Thompson Debuts Full Length CD
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Finally, it’s out! Lowell Thompson has released his self-titled full-length CD featuring ten origina...Finally, it’s out! Lowell Thompson has released his self-titled full-length CD featuring ten original songs. Mostly recorded in a couple of days at Strangeways Recording and Egan Media Productions with additional recording done at home, mixed and mastered at Spring in Burlington, the CD was released under his own Bunkbed Records label. Although Lowell has said it doesn’t take that long to write a song, the compilation is the result of months of inspiration and hard work. Joining him for the debut are Bill Mullins (guitar), Tyler Bolles (upright bass), Kirk Flanagan (electric bass), Russ Lawton and Steve Hadeka (drums), Gordon Stone (pedal steel), Marie Claire (piano) and Aya Inoue (backing vocals). The result penetrates the soul and can be listened to over and over again.
Lowell Thompson puts love on the front burner. His songs traffic expressly in this rare emotion that truly rules our lives. There is joy in some songs with sadness, impatience, disappointment, triumph and even lust sprinkled throughout the album. His music is filled with appreciation for the finer things in life while taking into account life’s hardships. “Hearts Amount” is presently ringing in this writer’s ears and my personal favorite is “Turn Me Home.” Each song remarkably provides a sense of discovery as well as recognition of the familiar. Lowell’s tunes speak an emotive language --lyrically and musically-- that leaves the listener wanting more.
The Lowell Thompson CD release party at Club Metronome on August 11 gained steam as the crowd gathered. The early opener for the show was John Stockhausen accompanied by Marie Claire on piano and drummer Jeremy Gantz followed by the Brixton Guns. When the Lowell Thompson Band hit the stage, the fans were ready to rock! For over two hours Club Metronome seethed with the energy of Lowell Thompson originals mixed with the best of Bill Mullins’s own hits and covers by the likes of Neil Young and Mick Jagger. The dance floor was hot and heavy. With special guests Gordon Stone and Marie Claire joining band members Mullins, Flanagan and Hadeka, it was a night to remember.
Lowell Thompson is a CVU and UVM graduate. He enjoys playing sports and was a lacrosse stand-out while in school. At the age of 12, Lowell picked up the guitar and taught himself what he needed to know to get started. His myspace bio states that he “grew up on a steady regimen of punk rock and power chords.” His list of musical influences includes such childhood favorites as Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Wilco… Johnny Cash tunes filled in between sets at the CD release party. Lowell is self-disciplined and sincere, never failing to thank his audience for listening to him sing. His fans love him pure and simple.
New songs are springing from the lips of this Shelburne native and you can hear them when you go to live shows. But having a “hard copy” of his beautiful contribution to the world of music is a soothing reminder that Lowell is among us. With a presence that is exciting and calming all at once, his music goes straight to the heart.
Great Listens: 14 Essential CD's
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LOWELL THOMPSON (self-titled) (2006) This upstart alt-country/Americana singer-songwriter awakens...LOWELL THOMPSON (self-titled) (2006)
This upstart alt-country/Americana singer-songwriter awakens echoes of Gram Parsons, with a little Neil Young thrown in for good measure (not to mention Thompson's own originality).
Catch the Charm of Lowell Thompson
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Lowell Thompson shares a soulful courage when he performs his especially memorable love songs. The ...Lowell Thompson shares a soulful courage when he performs his especially memorable love songs. The beautiful presence and gentle spirit of this young Vermont singer songwriter truly captivated the April 7 Charlotte Coffeehouse audience.
Although Thompson is more likely to be found around the Burlington hot spots for an enthusiastic crowd of young fans, his following is sure to expand with the release of his CD this summer. Even the very young were compelled to listen to his music without fidegeting, but their day to dance to Thompson's full band shows will soon come.
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Burlington singer Lowell Thompson plays a mean slide guitar and knows how to twang in the true Gram ...Burlington singer Lowell Thompson plays a mean slide guitar and knows how to twang in the true Gram Parsons style, as his new self-titled CD (his first full-length effort) demonstrates. The disc rocks, too, and the young songwriter gets help from some stellar Burlington-area musicians including Gordon Stone, Russ Lawton (Trey Anastasio Band), Steve Hadeka (The Cush) and Marie Claire (Fire The Cannons).
April Coffeehouse Talent is a Thrill
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......Friday's headliner was Lowell Thompson, a Shelburne, Vermont native. He took center stage and.........Friday's headliner was Lowell Thompson, a Shelburne, Vermont native. He took center stage and easily won our hearts. Lowell has such a poised relaxed manner about him, and he is a confident, powerful solo performer. His singing voice is impressive, and his songwriting is outstanding. It's no wonder in 2004 he won th songwriter's contest put on by Advance Music. Lowell has recently finished the recording for his first CD expected out in July. Pick one up! You won't be dissapointed. No doubt, Lowell is a Shooting Star. -Mary Provencher
Anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours of original material
There are no upcoming dates at this time.