PASSING THE AUDITION Richard Thompson

 

With a live album of all new material, the
celebrated guitarist and songwriter pulls a high wire act.

 

BY
JASON GROSS

 

In
the great but not-exactly-widespread tradition of Rust Never Sleeps and Kick
Out the Jams
, singer/songwriter/guitarist/English folk-rock legend Richard
Thompson decided to try out a bit of high wire act for his latest album, Dream Attic (on Shout! Factory). His
first record in three years is a live album, but one with all new material
culled from a series of West Coast shows from this year with his quartet: guitarist/saxist
Pete Zorn, drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Taras Prodaniuk and violinist Joel
Zifkin. Even with the shows as its source, the album still feels like an actual
record and not a slapdash bunch of concerts cropped together, with Thompson’s
wit, irreverence and strong story-telling skills in evidence. There’s the
self-righteous do-gooder jerk he parodies in “Here Come Geordie,” the
ironically happy romp about current financial woes on “The Money
Shuffle” and the noirish, bloody “Crimescene.” And of course,
with Thompson being Thompson, he dishes up his share of sharp guitar solos
(“If Love Whispers Your Name”) and songs with dramatic, extended
instrumental parts (“Sidney Wells”).

 

Thompson,
on the difficult process of testing out new material for an unsuspecting
audience, explains, “I think you’re not really sure about a song and how
it communicates until you play it live for an audience. A song can fall flat
for a million reasons and you might say, ‘That’s the first and last time that I
ever play that song live!'”

 

In
this case, he’s confident that the new songs did make the grade and were worthy
to be added to his catalog. Asked if he thinks the material got a good,
satisfying response from the crowds, he responds, “Absolutely! Especially since
there are songs on there that are perhaps rather difficult for the audience,
like ‘Burning Man’ and the other psycho one, ‘Crimescene.’ So, if anything it
was actually more favorable than I was hoping.”

 

And
where does Thompson see himself now in his long and enviable career? He’s remarkably
blasé about it, with more pressing matters on his mind. “I’m actually not
very interested in ‘the grand scope’ of my career. What really interests me is
what I’m doing now, what I’m doing next week and the next couple of
years.”

 

That
would include more touring, and likely some more new songs which he’ll try out
and test on his audiences, so be prepared.

 

 

Richard Thompson’s North American tour
started October 2. View tour dates at his official website.

 

[Photo
Credit: Annaliese Moyer]

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