Thursday, February 09, 2006
He was voted the 19th best guitarist in rock by Rolling Stone. His album with then wife Linda, Shoot Out the Lights, was voted the 9th best album of the 80s by Rolling Stone. His music has inspired a tribute album, Beat the Retreat, with covers by X, REM, Bonnie Raitt, Dinosaur Jr, Bob Mould, among others. He was a founding member of Fairport Convention. He has released a string of solo albums, some studio, some live, six of which are listed to the left, that have all received overwhelmingly strong reviews.
This is not a "why isn't he more famous" column. He's made a living in music for almost 40 years now, and if he is not a household name, Richard Thompson is known to the musicians he would be flattered to be known by, and his legends of fans, who fill all the halls in all the countries he incessantly tours, solo or with his band, await each new project eagerly and with open wallets.
Just released this past Tuesday, the six CD box set The Life and Times of Richard Thompson explores RT's music from all aspects of his career, from Fairport through his collaboration with ex-wife Linda Thompson through today. As it should, the box set consists almost exclusively of live cuts; Thompson is a fine studio musician, but he excels in live performances, especially in respect to his guitar work. I've been lucky enough to see RT over - over I don't now how many times; I remember being at one of the legendary early 80s RT and LT Shoot Out the Light shows, at the long gone Bayou on K St in Georgetown under the Whitehurst Freeway, watching them fight onstage, stopping between swipes verbal and openhand, to make ethereal music about a disintegrating marriage. I saw him last fall in Easton Maryland at the Avalon. I've seen almost every show within 100 miles of DC in between those two. I'll be seeing him again, about the same time it's the next time he's in the area.
Sunday's All Things Considered had a long audio article on French composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie. The article makes the standard points about orchestras staying generally within the standards for financial reasons:
Commissioning and performing new music is a risky business for any classical orchestra. Creating the repertoire of the future is important, but with today's tight budgets, filling the seats of the concert hall often takes precedence.Dalbavie, who I had never heard of, apparently is a rare exception, at least according to the piece - orchestras in Philly, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Chicago have played his work. Has anyone heard of Dalbavie or his work (supposedly very little of it has made it to recording)?
The damning word, of course, is "accessible." I was having dinner Saturday night with the professor who mentored my thesis. He is a fan of, if not a practioner of, Oulipo, and he's especially been urging me to read the American Oulipian Harry Mathews. I did read a Mathews novel, The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium, in anticipation of our dinner, and I liked it well enough, thought the conceit worked, saw the obvious intelligence at work, and I told my professor as much. Well, he said, I'm glad you liked it, but it is his most accessible. Well, excuse me. It seems to me, I said, that valuing difficulty as meritorious in itself rewards incomprehensibility, and it seems to me that priding oneself on a paucity of readers is a self-fulfilling prophesy easily achieved. Hmm, he said, and started bugging me to read Flann O'Brien. I'll be starting The Third Policeman next week.