Selected by Dan
Along with an upcoming
tour by Bob Dylan, a visit by British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson will give Japan a
chance to compare and contrast two of the 20th century' greatest folk musicians.
First gaining attention as a founding member of the '60s British folk-rock group Fairport
Convention, Thompson was part of that band for five albums through the late '60s and early
'70s. Launching his solo career, Thompson released Henry the Human Fly in 1972.
While the album gained the dubious distinction of becoming Warner's worst-selling album in
history, it marked the emergence of Thompson's idiosyncratic vision based on his superb
guitar work and wistful, brooding vocals.
In 1972, Thompson married singer Linda Peters, and the pair embarked on a lengthy period
of collaboration that was to see them release a number of records including Pour Down
Like Silver (1975), before their final effort, Shoot Out the Lights (1982),
which marked an end to their marriage as well as, ironically, their first commercial
Thompson reunited with former Fairport manager Joe Boyd for a succession of releases in
the '80s, including Across a Crowded Room (1985). He also hooked up with
avant-garde musicians John French, Fred Frith (Henry Cow) and Henry Kaiser to form French,
Frith, Kaiser, Thompson, for the album Live, Love, Larf and Loaf (1987).
The '90s saw Thompson come into his own as a solo act. Under the direction of noted
producer Mitchell Froom, he released five records for Capitol including Rumor and Sigh
He also became a touchstone for many of the indie-rock musicians making their mark in the
'80s and '90s, and became the subject of a tribute album in 1994, Beat the Retreat,
which featured tracks by REM, Bob Mould, Bonnie Raitt and Dinosaur Jr. among others.
While Dylan's visionary folk, rooted in the protest music of Woody Guthrie jazzed up with
a stiff dose of R&B, has brought him a worldwide audience, Thompson's darker, more
intimate songwriting and penchant for traditional British instruments like the hurdy-gurdy
and hammer dulcimer, has kept him more of a cult figure. Dylan and Thompson cover a vast
swath of 20th century popular music. Folk fans will have a fine time of it deciding which
concert - if not both - to attend.
Thompson plays Shibuya Club Quattro on Feb 21. See
listings for details.