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.”