Guitar legend goes solo


POSTED: Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's time for another working vacation for a musician so lauded that he's the subject of a third retrospective box set, and the 60-year-old Richard Thompson will be around to enjoy the accolades.

He and his family love Hawaii so much that they visit during the Thanksgiving holiday every chance they get. They were last here three years ago, and this time around Thompson will perform a rare solo gig on Maui tomorrow before a Saturday night concert at Windward Community College.

Fans can get reacquainted with the ace guitarist-songwriter's repertoire by listening to the 71 tracks contained within “;Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009.”; From Thompson's early years with the British folk-rock band Fairport Convention, through his creative partnership with his former wife, Linda, and continuing on through his solo years, the set presents a solid overview of Thompson's work, including what is considered his signature song, “;1952 Vincent Black Lightning,”; named by author Stephen King in his latest Entertainment Weekly column as one of his choices for his ultimate playlist.





        » 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at McCoy Studio Theater, Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $35; call (808) 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.

» 8 p.m. Saturday with openers the Greg Sardinha Duo at Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College. Tickets are $35; call 235-7310 or www.etickethawaii.com or visit Island Guitars in Ward Warehouse.




“;The ultimate ladies-love-outlaws song,”; King wrote. “; 'Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme'—were truer words ever spoken?”;

“;I had a small hand in (the box set),”; Thompson said by phone last week from his Los Angeles home. “;I'm happy someone else put it together because I wouldn't have known where to start. I helped with the track sequence and did a bit of judicious editing, little bits here and there, sometimes choosing a song that I thought would be better in a live version.

“;There probably won't be another collection—I would have to drop dead before another one comes out. There's not much left in the vaults, but I do have acres of live recordings. There are some things I can't find, like when Fairport Convention jammed with Led Zeppelin back in 1970 when the band was playing the Troubadour in Los Angeles. That tape mysteriously disappeared from the A&M Records vault. Plus most of the earlier recording sessions for the 'Full House' album that same year at Phil Spector's Gold Star studio. And there is probably a whole album's worth of duets I've done with other people.”;

THOMPSON'S projects this year have included performing a song cycle he wrote called “;Cabaret of Souls”; for and with his good friend, double bassist Danny Thompson (no relation), as a showpiece for an International Society of Bassists gathering back in June. Thompson also just ended a “;Loud & Rich”; tour with folk singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.

Coming up next is an album of all new songs that will be recorded live in February during a 10-day West Coast tour from Vancouver to L.A., and a reprise of his well-received “;1000 Years of Popular Music”; shows that featured songs dating from the 13th century up through Britney Spears' “;Oops! ... I Did It Again.”;

“;I'll probably take it out on the road in 2011, reshape it, make it less chronological,”; Thompson said. “;Maybe I'll do the Mozart version of a Jerry Lee Lewis song, or vice versa. I'll just chop it all up.”;

After turning 60 in April, he admits that “;while you may say age is just a number, it does give you pause. In my sense of time, it's running out. I have several musical projects I want to get through in the next few years. This year, I worked with a chamber orchestra on Danny's 'Cabaret of Souls,' and I have two more projects like that.

“;As for touring, I'm still working fairly hard on that and I'd like to work a little less. I'm doing a hundred shows a year at the moment and I'd like to get it down to around 70.”;


        Richard Thompson

Hawaii audiences have seen Thompson, over the years, perform solo, in a duet with Danny Thompson, and as a trio with Danny and percussionist Michael Jerome.

Richard Thompson returns as a soloist, and he's always one to take in the odd request from the audience.

“;I have to make sure those songs are the right fit,”; he said. “;There are several sprinkled throughout the set that are like security blankets for me, but I try to get the feeling of the audience on any given night. They tend to bring out different things, shouting out requests, so I try get a sense to what's happening in the place. If it's a particularly reverberant room, I sometimes add slower songs that would sound well in that setting.”;

Chances are Thompson should take well to Paliku Theatre Saturday night, and being in the islands in particular.

“;Hawaii's a wonderful place to relax,”; he said, “;I feel there's no pressure while we're there. Even when I'm home, there something that needs fixing or the phone's always ringing. We're never long enough there, but this year, we're spending 10 days. ... I wish I could spend a year there.”;