So what does Richard Thompson, one of music’s most unique, gifted and eclectic singer/songwriters — and lest we forget, an astonishingly good guitar player and oh yes, also an Officer of the Order of the British Empire bestowed by the Queen herself — do for thrills as he approaches 70?
I mean, this is a guy who who the L.A. Times said was “the best rock songwriter after Dylan and the best guitarist since Hendrix,” a guy who is still so sharp, vital and dynamic, playing and writing music as powerfully as ever, as evidenced by 2015’s Still as well as his recent Acoustic Classics Vol II + Rarities release, and has a record in the can that’s due out this summer. With a catalog behind him comprised of 14 solo studio and two live albums — in addition to six studio albums credited to Richard and ex-wife Linda Thompson, and five studio albums as a member of folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention — Thompson can still churn out his one-in-a-billion type of folk-tinged troubadour rock at a time when many musicians are waning.
But at the moment, actually for about the last year, he’s chosen a different type of art that many musicians try — U2, John Mellencamp, Jimmy Buffett and Matthew Sweet come to mind — to see if their brand of expression will translate seamlessly to the stage. Knowing the brilliant and evocative imagery that Thompson conveys with his songs, it is sure to be something very special indeed.
“I’ve been working on a musical play for a while,” Thompson told me as he prepared for a solo acoustic tour that brings him to the Birchmere on April 4th. “I’m quite excited by the prospect of it. It’s a dream I had, kind of a ‘Greek tragedy’ in the sense that a family is faced with an impossible dilemma, that whichever way they jump, there is pain and disaster. I’m enjoying the music. I think the music’s very strong. I think the story’s very strong, but it is kind of dark.”
It has been more than 50 years since the original recording of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Singer/songwriter Sandy Denny wrote the song while performing with the band, The Strawbs. The tune was made more famous when Denny performed it as part of the folk-rock group, Fairport Convention. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” […]
History of Song
“Matty Groves” is a Border ballad probably originating in Northern England that describes an adulterous tryst between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman’s husband discovers and kills them. This song exists in many textual variants and has several variant names. The song dates to at least the 17th century, and under the title Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard is one of the Child Ballads collected by 19th-century American scholar Francis James Child.
Little Musgrave (or Matty Groves, Little Matthew Grew and other variations) goes to church on a holy day either “the holy word to hear” or “to see fair ladies there”. He sees Lord Barnard’s wife, the fairest lady there, and realises she is attracted to him. She invites him to spend the night with her, and he agrees when she tells him her husband is away from home. Her page goes to find Lord Barnard (Arnel, Daniel, Arnold, Donald, Darnell, Darlington) and tells him that Musgrave is in bed with his wife. Lord Barnard promises the page a large reward if he is telling the truth and to hang him if he is lying. Lord Barnard and his men ride to his home, where he surprises the lovers in bed. Lord Barnard tells Musgrave to dress because he doesn’t want to be accused of killing a naked man. Musgrave says he dare not because he has no weapon, and Lord Barnard gives him the better of two swords. In the subsequent duel Little Musgrave wounds Lord Barnard, who then kills him. Lord Barnard then asks his wife whether she still prefers Little Musgrave to him and when she says she would prefer a kiss from the dead man’s lips to her husband and all his kin, he kills her. He then says he regrets what he has done and orders the lovers to be buried in a single grave, with the lady at the top because “she came of the better kin”. In some versions Barnard is hanged, or kills himself, or finds his own infant son dead in his wife’s body. Many versions omit one or more parts of the story.
The name Musgrave originates in Westmoreland, a former county in the north of England now part of Cumbria.
Some versions of the ballad include elements of an alba, a poetic form in which lovers part after spending a night together.
It’s a great idea, cataloguing Richard Thompson’s substantial material into stripped back acoustic versions as a collection; the songs themselves are of such high quality that they’ll be around forever, and we all know that Thompson is a hugely accomplished guitarist. His career is a frightening one, spanning five decades thus far, starting in 1967 with Fairport Convention when the guitarist was in his late teens. We can be thankful then for a compilation series of Thompson’s output and also interested in hearing the songs in a contemporary setting. It’s a reassuring and accessible run so far and a very useful gateway for anybody looking to familiarise themselves with some of the most important song writing in modern British folk history [ . . . ]
Read Full Review at: Richard Thompson: Acoustic Classics II | Folk Radio UK