Richard Thompson’s style and competence as a solo performance have evolved a lot in just the past 20 years, and even more since he broke up with his former wife and singing partner Linda Thompson and set out on his solo career. He still draws heavily on the Richard-and-Linda years, and his own early solo career, in his live sets. But anyone from among his growing number of relatively new fans might be frustrated or puzzled to find that some of the songs they like best from his concerts are available only on 30- or 40-year-old recordings – sung either by Linda or a younger and less-proficient Richard.
Thompson has remedied that with this deceptively low-key collection of some of his most commonly performed songs, recorded solo acoustic in his home studio. It’s available only online or at shows.
The CD has 14 songs, all just Thompson with his acoustic guitar, except for dubbed mandolin on what’s probably his most requested song these days, “Beeswing.” They range from the Richard and Linda days (“I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight,” “Walking On A Wire,” “Wall Of Death,” “Down Where The Drunkards Roll,” “Dimming Of The Day” and “Shoot Out The Lights”) to early solo years (“When The Spell Is Broken,” “Valerie,” through the ’90s (“I Misunderstood,” “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”) and a couple of more recent numbers (“One Door Opens” and “Persuasion”).
I’m particularly glad to see “Drunkards” and “Dimming of the Day” on this collection, both of which are simply great songs that were sung by Linda on long-ago LPs. Likewise the nice new version of “From Galway to Graceland” to supplant the bootleg-quality live take on the three-disc collection Watching The Dark, which is the only other place that Thompson has officially released this gem of a ballad. Thompson doesn’t often perform “Shoot Out The Lights” in a solo acoustic setting, so this one is also very welcome. One would think “Beeswing” would’ve worn out its welcome, but not so; this is a lovely version and a welcome update to the 20-year-old studio track.
This one isn’t really for the long-time fans, although most of them (I mean “us”) will get it. As a show souvenir, it’s a great addition to the merch table.