Richard Thompson's latest album, Electric, produced by Buddy Miller, comes in what is arguably his most creatively productive period in a career that stretches back some forty-five years, back to his emergence as a teen guitarist and songwriter with the groundbreaking Fairport Convention - the band that essentially invented the term "English folk-rock." And that's saying a lot, with his dozens of albums consistently high on critics polls and guitar skills that have earned him a Top 20 spot on Rolling Stone's list of "Best Guitarists of All Time."
Richard Thompson's many facets only seem to get more, well, multifaceted. And multi-fascinating. The recognition continues and has become even stronger in the last few years: his long-acclaimed guitar work - piercing, delicate, often both at once - brought him MOJO magazine's Les Paul Award; his equally gripping songwriting earned him the 2012 Americana Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by Bonnie Raitt, and Britain's coveted Ivor Novello Award.
Oh, and there was that Order of the British Empire (OBE), bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth for service to music, summing up the whole artistic package. All the while, he's been expanding his roster of accomplishments into theater with his multimedia extravaganza Cabaret of Souls, scoring the gripping Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man and curating London's prestigious Meltdown Festival. Not to mention that he's an avid birder and hockey fan.
On Thompson's new album, pointedly titled Electric, all of that is boiled down to its intense essence. "The title's Electric, and the music sometimes is," he says. Mostly electric, to be accurate, and always electrifying. Whether featuring electric or acoustic guitar, the songs are built around the tightly focused core of Thompson's current, sharply honed trio: drummer Michael Jerome (Better Than Ezra, John Cale), and bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello) complementing and often pushing the leader through a full range of emotional explorations.
The album was produced in Nashville by Buddy Miller (Robert Plant's Band of Joy, not to mention his own acclaimed albums) at his cozy home studio. Miller provides rhythm guitar here and there, Stuart Duncan guests on fiddle, Siobhan Maher Kennedy (of the English band River City People) sings harmonies on five of the songs and the incomparable Alison Krauss duets on the achingly lovely "The Snow Goose."
Thompson terms the Electric material "funk-folk, or folk-funk." But that is to large extent just a matter of economy - and limitations - of language, something he's employed to great effect throughout his career both in lyrics and interviews. "I commented facetiously somewhere that its between Judy Collins and Bootsy Collins," he notes, wryly.
Also available with Autographed CD Booklet:
Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 (4CD Box Set)