ACL Music Fest Sunday Interview
The droll Fairport Convention founder still shoots out the lights
Richard Thompson7pm, Clear 4G stage
"I don't think Henry the Human Fly was the worst-selling album ever, only for Warner Bros."
In a sonorous voice, Richard Thompson mused over that dubious 1972 distinction at his onetime label, then chuckled it off. After all, he ranks in the upper echelon of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists, boasts a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award (though he's only 61), and still writes the kind of songs that makes other songwriters trade the pen for the want ads.
London-born and -raised, Thompson helped found Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, the band that set the British folk-rock standard dabbled in by Led Zeppelin then and influencing the Decemberists now. His solo career from the 1970s onward dazzled critics; 1982's Shoot Out the Lights, recorded with then-wife Linda Thompson, remains revered in the album canon. Most recently, Dream Attic brings Thompson out on tour to the sheer delight of his fans.
If only one word can be applied to Thompson, it's "droll." When asked what audience Dream Attic is intended for, Thompson unhesitatingly replied, "Really, really intelligent, elegant people," before bursting into laughter and composing himself.
"I can't very easily answer that question, I'm not so sure anymore. It's probably for me mostly, and anybody else who can figure out what's going on. And I'm probably writing more for a British audience than an American audience.
"Cultural references are the difference. In the Sixties over in the UK, we used to struggle to figure out lyrics to a Muddy Waters song, the strange references. Since the Beatles, Americans are used to there being a difference, different cultural things. Even the Rolling Stones, who were trying to be as American as possible, still had British cultural references. Now we're used to each other enough to decipher those things. The way you might watch Miss Marple on Masterpiece Theatre and enjoy that, we can watch Hawaii 5-0 and enjoy the Americana of that.
"It's a wonderful relationship."