COURTESY SHORE FIRE MEDIA
Ever-busy guitarist Richard Thompson and his acoustic trio are playing at Waimea Valley Audubon Center on Saturday.
No rest for this music man
Guitarist-songwriter Thompson revisits past glory
It seems a bit incongruous to speak to someone tagged by the Los Angeles Times as "the finest songwriter after Dylan, and the best electric guitarist since Hendrix" from a Holiday Inn in Pittsburgh, but that's Richard Thompson for you.
Performing with his acoustic trio and special guest Makana
In concert: 8 p.m. Saturday
Place: Waimea Valley Audubon Center, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway
Tickets: $25 advance; $30 at the door (available at Surf & Sea in Haleiwa, Island Guitars in Ward Warehouse and Hungry Ear Records in Kailua)
Also: The trio will perform 8 p.m. Nov. 24 at rRed Elephant, 1144 Bethel St. Seating limited; $40 advance.
The quiet and self-effacing 57-year-old Englishman of Scottish ancestry is wrapping up a solo acoustic tour on the mainland, so all he needs is a place to rest his body after a gig, and without the grand accouterments befitting someone of his stature, thank you. Thompson will be making his fifth island appearance in nine years this weekend, this time surrounded by a stellar rhythm section of standup bassist Danny Thompson (no relation) and percussionist Michael Jerome.
The Thompsons last paired up for a Honolulu concert in 2000, as much a vacation for themselves and their wives.
With the addition of Jerome, this Pacific jaunt will also help celebrate the percussionist's wife's birthday. Everyone "will make beautiful music together" in Hawaii, Thompson quipped.
"Michael and I have been playing together since '01," he said. "He's originally from Texas, and I met him through his wife, who was decorating my then-manager's house. He appeared on my last album, 'The Old Kit Bag,' and did a show with me on 'Austin City Limits,' which is out now on DVD."
Like Dylan, it seems that Thompson is always on the road. "We never rest," he said. "In fact, we're halfway through an electric album with the band that I hope will be out come May. We're finalizing a deal with an indie label. (He was with major label Capitol Records.) It'll be made up of all-new material, featuring myself, Mike, Danny and Pete Zorn."
STAR-BULLETIN / 1999
Local guitarist Makana is special guest at Richard Thompson's gig Saturday.
Another of his ongoing projects is "1000 Years of Popular Music," in which Thompson performs pop tunes from the centuries, from "Sumer Is Icumen In," circa 1260 Britain, up to Bowling for Soup's 2004 hit "1985." He'll resume the project next year on a European tour.
"The intention of it is to bring these earlier songs to the attention of the audience. Songs of certain periods, like that troubadour song of the 1200s, which has a wonderful tune and beautiful lyrics. ... A song like that is not that all different from what I did in Fairport Convention (the folk-rock band that made Thompson's reputation as a guitarist in the '60s). So I'm used to processing these songs and bringing them back to life ... and making them real for you."
Thompson's most recent notable effort was his ethereal soundtrack work to the riveting 2005 documentary "Grizzly Man," about the troubled if enthusiastic wildlife preservationist Timothy Treadwell, killed by a grizzly bear attack. "I actually met director Werner Herzog through a friend of a friend, who suggested a piece of music of mine from the '80s to be used as a temporary track.
"What later happened is that the whole score was improvised, all while I was watching footage with Werner. I did that in a day and a half."
Richard Thompson selected these albums -- from among the 30-plus he's recorded -- as his best efforts. Any one from this list would be a perfect introduction to his rich music:
» Studio and Live albums: 1999's "Mock Tudor," his last for Capitol, and "Semi-Detached Mock Tudor," released on his Beeswing label three years later. "Semi-Detached" includes his eldest son, Teddy, who has carved out his own distinguished solo career. Songs from the studio album include such standouts as "Cooksferry Queen," "Sibella," "Bathsheba Smiles," "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)," "Dry My Tears and Move On" and "Walking the Long Miles Home."
» Older albums: Thompson chose two noteworthy efforts with former wife Linda. "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" (1974) their first album, featured some of the bleakest if most beautiful songs ever written, including "Calvary Cross," "Withered and Died," "Down Where the Drunkards Roll," "Has He Got a Friend for Me," and especially "End of the Rainbow." "Shoot Out the Lights" (1982) is a perennial critic and fan fave, recorded near their breakup. The title track is especially powerful.