Richard Thompson: Acoustic Classics

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 00:00


Acoustic Classics

Richard Thompson

Beeswing Records

Singer / Songwriter

It’s tricky being a musician these days. At least that’s what Richard Thompson thinks. “This is a tough time to be getting into music,” he recently told Your intellectual property isn’t worth shit. Your only source of income is live shows and T-shirt sales. If you have to do it, you have to do it, but you’re better off having a day job.”

And if you have to do it, then you need something for those who do show up. Acoustic Classics “was conceived to be something to sell at acoustic shows. I don’t really have anything on the merchandise table that is representative of a solo show, so I went in the studio and revisited some of the more popular songs I play live.”

Thompson’s natural habitat is with a band, pushing his sharply observed moral musings to their often righteous limit. But t the 65-year-old British singer-songwriter has increasingly favoured going solo with just his acoustic guitar. Thompson’s ardently loyal audience seems happy to savour his quirky stage personality, distinctive voice and masterful embroidered playing on an ever-expanding tower of song.

So who decides which songs merit the “classic” designation? That would be the audience. “Classic” is the posh term for a hit without sales, though nobody is selling much in these Spotify days. Over the years Thompson has built up a reservoir of audience favourites and he could, with ease, have offered numerous rival selections – though few will quibble with Thompson’s 14 choices or with his earnest rereading of them.

The songs are all from his post-Fairport work. Ballads (Beeswing, From Galway to Graceland, Dimming of the Day) are set against standard rock blasts (I Misunderstood, Valerie, an oddly pumped-up version of I Want to See the Bright Lights Shine).

There has always been a tension in Thompson’s writing, between his blue suede shoes tendency and his love of traditional song. Here it sounds even starker in this solitary performance. The space between each track is jarring; the “live” performance seems naked without applause. But then, the audience is there – if only in spirit.

Download: Beeswing, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning