After 30 years of recording and performing, Richard Thompson remains the nightmare of every marketing department: he is an obvious genius who simply can't be slipped past the radar of the mainstream audience. Thompson himself seems nonplussed. He continues to write marvelously mordant songs, and to wring his own brand of Celtic angst from the electric guitar. Meanwhile, the journalist Patrick Humphries has taken on the Boswell role, taping hours of interviews and running down all the requisite sources. The result is this lively Life of Thompson, which includes an airtight discography and some goofy photos that only a fearless man would allow to be published.
Richard Thompson blends folk, jazz, Cajun, and rockabilly elements in songs, powered by his own brilliant guitar playing, that plumb the nether regions of romance. For this, he has won virtually unmatched acclaim (Entertainment Weekly
recently deemed him "the British Neil Young"). Humphries interviewed Thompson extensively (and quotes him at such length that, at times, this book reads like an autobiography) as well as many musicians who have worked with him, including his former wife and co-headliner, Linda. He traces Thompson's career from his days in the groundbreaking British folk-rock group Fairport Convention to his perhaps less dazzling but steadfastly rewarding recent work. Breezy but chock-full of information, Humphries' effort offers genuine insight into Thompson's music and a revealing examination of the enigmatic performer's life, including his conversion to Islam and rancorous divorce from Linda. Hugely respected by critics and fellow musicians, Thompson has only a cult fandom in the U.S.--one sizable and enthusiastic enough, however, to warrant library purchase of this exemplary biography. Gordon Flagg