BY MICHAEL TOLAND
As billed, Acoustic Classics showcases master songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson recasting fourteen tunes from his near-five decade repertoire as solo acoustic numbers. Fans of his intimate solo shows know these arrangements well, and have long jonesed for a clear, non-bootleg recording of Thompson doing well-known catalog cuts like “Wall of Death,” “I Misunderstood” and “Shoot Out the Lights” stripped of accoutrements – all the better to highlight his witty lyrics and fingerbusting guitar work.
For the Thompson fanatic, the setlist is almost too predictable, to the point of incorporating “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” which were solo acoustic to start with. There’s little emphasis on recent work, as only “One Door Opens” (from 2003’s The Old Kit Bag) and “Persuasion” (from 2001’s best-of Action Packed) hail from the new millenium, while fully half the setlist comes from his years in collaboration with (ex)wife Linda, including “Walking On a Wire,” “Dimming of the Day” and “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” (Nothing from his Fairport Convention years, sadly.) That said, it’s impossible to argue with the quality of any of these songs or his note-perfect performances of them – his six-string wizardry will have aspiring guitar players wearing out the grooves and he brings out new shades of excellence in some of the staples. Plus “Galway to Graceland,” a Thompson favorite never released on any of his studio albums, finally gets a pristinely recorded take here. Ultimately, this is a record full of brilliant Richard Thompson songs given strong readings. Impossible to argue with that.
DOWNLOAD: “From Galway to Graceland,” “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” “Persuasion”