Richard Thompson is working on “another electric album,” which he plans to record in May and hopefully release before the end of the year.
The wrinkle this time, Thompson tells Billboard.com, is that he’s recording with a trio that includes his regular rhythm section of bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome. “We’ve being doing a few things as a three-piece, some local California things, a commando-raid type band,” Thompson explains. “It doesn’t require a lot of setting up, there’s a minimal crew, we can jump into a van and do our thing. So I’ve been writing for that lineup, which has been kind of inspiring.”
Thompson says he has “an album’s worth” of material ready and describes it as “sort of folk-rock power trio music, somewhere between the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Peter, Paul & Mary — the two great trio blueprints.” But while 2010’s Grammy Award-nominated “Dream Attic” was recorded live and mostly unadorned, Thompson says the new, as-yet untitled set will be “a produced, studio album. There’s a certain amount of post-production I’d like to do on this one, and I also want to send tapes to people scattered around the world to add components to this record. So it’ll be easier to do it in a studio this time.”
While they’re waiting for the album, Thompson fans can tuck into “The Richard Thompson Band Live at Celtic Connections,” a new DVD and Blu-ray filmed during January 2011 at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow at the notoriously tricky festival. “I’ve done three or four or five of those over the years, and it’s famous for having the world’s best hecklers,” says Thompson, who showcases 10 “Dream Attic” songs on the set as well as material drawn from throughout his career. “They’re hecklers with a real deep sense of humor and irony, so you have to beware when you step on that stage that you can handle it. I’ve seen other people demolished, just hit in the jugular — comedians, especially. Fortunately I’m half Scottish, so they only heckle half of me.”
Besides working on the new album, Thompson is also gearing up for Fairport Convention‘s 45th anniversary celebration at this year’s Cropredy Festival, which the band has hosted in early August each year since 1976. “I think a lot of the old band are coming,” says Thompson, who plans to play a solo show as well as with Fairport Convention. “I hope everybody who’s still above ground will be there. It coincides this year with the Olympics, which is a logical disaster. Many festivals in the U.K. are canceled this summer because the Olympics have taken every portable toilet in northern Europe, but Fairport is on a three-year lease, so we’re carrying on.”
Another mark Thompson is hitting this year is the 40th anniversary of his first solo album, “Henry the Human Fly,” though he says that he “wasn’t keeping track of that one. ‘Henry’ is a very odd record; it’s very eccentric, and I’m really feeling my way into songwriting. But it has kind of a strange charm. I always threatened to return to it and re-do the vocals, which are really bad. But it did launch my solo career, which has been interesting from there. It’s nice to be able to get up on a stage on your own and entertain people for an hour and a half, two hours. It’s amazing.”