Richard Thompson is one of the most prolific songwriters pop music has ever seen. Of course, being prolific is meaningless if one just churns out pap. But the quality of Thompson’s output is as impressive as its quantity – which goes far beyond his steady stream of standard releases to include soundtracks, DVDs, and website-only releases.
It’s in live settings that all of Thompson’s talents shine brightest – as singer, songwriter, acoustic and electric guitarist (in his case, two utterly distinct but equally impressive animals). But here again, Thompson doesn’t approach live recording conventionally (typically a rehash of greatest hits, often used to buy time while an artist struggles to come up with new material); instead, Attic presents 13 new tunes performed with minimal rehearsal as part of an eight-date tour.
Helping pull off the feat are ex-Dwight Yoakam bassist Taras Prodaniuk, McGarrigle Sisters violinist Joel Zifkin, ace percussionist Michael Jerome (whose credits range from John Cale to the Blind Boys Of Alabama), and Pete Zorn. Much of Zorn’s resume concerns his bass playing, but in this lineup he shifts from rhythm guitar to mandolin, flute, and sax.
Thompson invariably takes more chances on guitar live than in the studio. Known for exploring the dark side, his flurries on “Crimescene” amplify the theme (the downside of aging), while “Demons In Her Dancing Shoes” features wide, wild bends that would make Buddy Guy jealous. His melodicism is in full display on “Stumble On,” but “The Money Shuffle” skewers our financial wizards lyrically as well as with a stinging solo, with plenty of bite in his trademark out-of-phase tone.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Oct. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.