Richard Thompson has been performing his particular brand of folk rock for the best part of five decades now, and his career has seen him regularly release critically acclaimed albums. Initially a founder member of Fairport Convention, he recorded a string of much celebrated albums with his then wife Linda throughout the 70s, and he continues to release solo albums to this day, playing to rapturous crowds of fans whenever he plays live. As its name suggests, Acoustic Classics II is the second in a series of albums which sees Thompson revisit songs from his past and giving them the acoustic treatment. For many acts, this could perhaps signal that they are running low on ideas, but for Thompson that’s not really the case. Always a supreme guitar player, a fair portion of Thompson’s material down the years has either been recorded with a full band, or solo with an electric guitar, however few would argue that, as utterly beautiful as his electric guitar work is, Thompson is in a league of his own when it comes to the acoustic guitar, so him revisiting his songbook in a solo acoustic style for a second time is something that many of his fans will applaud.
Listening to Acoustic Classics II, there’s something oddly reassuring about it. With Thompson’s warm and rich vocal being accompanied by acoustic guitar, it strips each song down to their individual core elements of voice, tune and lyrics, emphasising the strength of each, while avoiding sounding like a tired facsimile of a superior version of a song, which these exercises can often descend into in the hands of lesser talents. Thompson isn’t a lesser talent though. He’s a man who has absolute mastery of his art and knows how to make the most out of everything he does.
If Thompson’s Acoustic Classics series has a parallel, it is Randy Newman’s Songbook series. They are two celebrated songwriters stripping much loved songs from their past down to their bare bones and enjoying their unvarnished beauty.
If you’re new to the work of Richard Thompson, then Acoustic Classics II is actually not a bad place to start, though inevitably you’ll want to seek out Acoustic Classics I as well. For fans who already have all these songs on previous releases in their original versions, then rest-assured, this is far from a completists only release.
Acoustic Classics II is available on Beeswing on August 11.