For those that have never been exposed to Richard Thompson, have not had the sublime pleasure of enjoying a whiskey fueled evening listening to the stone cold classic Shootout the Lights, and somehow missed the recent vintage Buddy Miller produced Electric, his latest, Acoustic Classics will be a perfect primer and a gate way drug into a rabbit hole of wonderment courtesy of one of the best living guitar players and songwriters ever.
With simply an unamplified guitar and his voice, Thompson takes you on a way-back journey through most of his important works all the way back to I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, the album that really put him on the musical map in 1974. In a real Sophie’s sort of dilemma, it is hard to decide as to where the true genius of Richard Thompson actually lies, but here, presented in the rawest of forms, the listener can hear the virtuoso guitar work alongside the poignant and observant lyrics against the background of the pure and honest vocals, and can decide for themselves. I vote for it all.
For current fans, most of the standards stay close to the original arrangements with “Wall of Death” taking on a new and much more powerful life of its own losing a bit of the folk veneer present in the original, while “Walking on a Wire” pales only slightly in comparison to the original lacking the intense vocal turn from then wife, Linda Thompson.
There are several somewhat lesser known gems to savor here as well including “From Galway to Graceland,” and the upbeat “Valerie.” If this is your first Richard Thompson rodeo, you will enjoy this record with gusto, and scramble post-haste to explore the back catalog. If you’re a Thompson veteran, just sit back with a glass of Jameson and enjoy. It doesn’t get any better than this.