Spotlight: Richard Thompson
"Saving the Good Stuff for You."
That's the title of the closing track on Richard Thompson's new album, Electric (New West), the British guitar slinger's most energetic release in a decade. Lyrically, Thompson summons the resignation of an old Nashville hand, which makes sense given that the album was produced by Buddy Miller in Music City, USA. Seeing as the virtuoso guitarist and pioneering songwriter, now 63, won a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association recently, maybe they should've waited another year.
"Americana really means roots music," he notes. "They know I'm not a country artist. They know I'm not American. So they're trying to widen the category. Sometimes it gets marginalized, but we're in a good period. We're seeing people like the Mumfords and Decemberists get very popular."
The still wry Thompson famously got his start with the groundbreaking Fairport Convention, a seminal Sixties electric folk outfit that for a time became England's answer to a newly plugged-in Bob Dylan. He helped define confessional songwriting for a generation when he and his ex-wife, Linda Thompson, went their separate ways after releasing the fraught 1982 masterpiece Shoot Out the Lights. Thirty years on, Thompson says inspiration comes more readily the older he gets.
"I can get to the starting point easier," says the songwriter, who teaches a composing seminar at SXSW this year.
As for his work with Nashville stalwart Buddy Miller, and the decision to join the indie New West stable – which includes Miller, Steve Earle, and Kris Kristofferson – it's all part of a piece for the music veteran.
"I've known Buddy for a few years," says Thompson. "He records at home, which is nice. He's got it set up in a creatively chaotic way, and it was a lot of fun."