Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 18, 2011

Guitarist Richard Thompson

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
by Eric Sutter

Cool and contented in the later warmth of a fall day, guitar legend Richard Thompson appeared on the Mahaiwe stage bringing his mix of love songs and dexterous acoustic guitar stylings to a loyal audience of followers on his and their journey of life.

Thompson's aura was pulsing in a knowing way, with a gracious but amusing passion that flowed. Known as a pioneer in folk-rock circles as a founding member of the British band Fairport Convention, he continually referenced early memories paired with more recent ones. He is particularlyl renowned for amazing fingerstyle guitaring. Gifted beyond belief, Thompson is noted on Rolling Stone magazine's Top 20 guitarists of all time.

"Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" harkened back to the 60's. Thompson's singing and sense of melody are as unique as his lyrics -- he is different than your average pop singer because of his background in the rich tradition of Celtic music. At one point, he picked an album title out of his trademark beret and sang three songs from it: from "1000 Years of Popular Music" he performed an Italian folk song, "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo" by Corazio Vecchi; "Blackleg Miners" from folk songs of British folk singers; and the rock number "A Legal Matter" by Pete Townshend. He easily sang a sea shanty ("Johnny's Far Away on the Rollin' Sea") as his own work ("Persuasion").

Thompson's skill at intricate guitar playing was evident on his well loved "Vincent Black Lightning 1952," about star-crossed lovers James and Red Molly. The powerfully sung "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)" from 1999's "Mock Tudor" was a perfect example of late-20th century angst. Sometimes twisted, he performed "Stumble On" from his latest CD, "Dream Attic." He then launced into the 1991 MTV hit "I Feel So Good." His love of sound was like a rush from the past that pleased this audience.