Richard Thompson / Ulster Hall, Belfast / Tickets & Info
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10th August 2019
Ulster Hall, Belfast
Richard Thompson gave himself up to the music itself. Picking up a guitar, emotions echoed through his deft fleet-fingered fretwork, poetic song writing, impassioned picking. Those transmissions comprise his nineteenth solo album, 13 Rivers.
“I never really think about what songs mean,” he admits. “I just write them. Some of them reflect on what happened a few months ago or even a year ago. It’s a process of surveying my life and where I was at.”
In 2017, Thompson began composing ideas for what would become 13 Rivers at his California home. Off the road, he focused on writing. As a result of the defined time period, the music possessed a distinct cohesion.
“I wrote the songs as a group to hang together,” he elaborates. “They belong together in some way and seem to possess a commonality since they were written in the same time and space.”
To capture this vision, he retreated to the famed Boulevard Recording Studio in Los Angeles. Known previously as “The Producers Workshop” and once owned by Liberace and his manager, the locale served as the site for seminal classics by Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Ringo Starr, and Joan Baez. It also hosted the mixing sessions for Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Notably, this marked the first time Thompson self-produced in over a decade and he opted to track analog in just ten days. Engineered by Clay Blair (The War on Drugs), usual suspects Michael Jerome [drums, percussion], Taras Prodaniuk [bass], and Bobby Eichorn [guitar] joined him.
“It’s a funky studio that was quite popular in the sixties and seventies,” he says. “It used to be Hollywood trendy, but it fell into total disrepair. It’s still got some gaps in the walls. I like studios that are honest. It’s about the décor of the sound, and there’s a specific sound to Boulevard. Clay is a Beatles nut, so I could grab a Gretsch off the wall or dial into an amp that had this unbelievable tone reminiscent of The Beatles. They also say Liberace’s ghost still haunts the place, but I hadn’t seen him myself,” laughs Thompson.
Thompson’s influence can’t be overstated. Everybody from Robert Plant, Don Henley, and Elvis Costello to REM, Sleater-Kinney and David Byrne has covered his music.
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy jumped at the chance to produce 2015’s Still – which earned plaudits from Pitchfork, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and more. Meanwhile, Werner Herzog tapped him for the soundtrack to Grizzly Man. He launched his career by co-founding trailblazing rock outfit Fairport Convention, responsible for igniting a British Folk Rock movement.
However, 13 Rivers represents another high watermark. “The songs are a surprise in a good way,” he leaves off. “They came to me as a surprise in a dark time. They reflected my emotions in an oblique manner that I’ll never truly understand. It’s as if they’d been channeled from somewhere else. You find deeper meaning in the best records as time goes on. The reward comes later.”
Tickets £37.50 on sale Friday @ 9am