Q&A August 2011, Part I
9/4/2011 (updated 9/4/2011)

I am a longtime performing guitarist/songwriter, and I love the Fender sound. I am ashamed to admit that I have a BUNCH of Fender Deluxe Reverbs (oh, excess), but I don't have a single one that sounds nearly so good as yours. On YouTube there is fantastic bootleg footage of you playing in Toronto, and the band is big, and pretty loud, and you seem to be using the deluxe, and you are getting the most beautiful tone, despite the volume. I  have to know: what speaker are you using in that deluxe?

Thanks very much for tolerating inquiries into such minutiae. Come back to Atlanta soon. Please bring back "Streets of Paradise" and "The Angels...". Most importantly, be happy and well. Thanks, Jason Pastras

I own 2 Fender Deluxe Reverb amps, both of which I keep in the UK. I have a 56 Tweed and a 63 blackface. The 56 sounds very full and warm, but has zero top end. I intend to give it a thorough overhaul soon. The 63 is a great amp, which I've used on stage and in the studio in the UK since I bought it in 1971. You can hear it on records like I want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. Both my Deluxes have standard Fender Jenson speakers. Like all Deluxe amps, it sounds good in a certain volume range, usually around number 6 or 7. It will sound thinner below that, and above it the speaker will get ugly. At 10 it will sound pretty good – the solos on 'Hokey Pokey' for instance – if the tone is thin enough. One of the reasons I like my Divided by Thirteen amp is that it sounds good at all volumes, and is half a Vox and half a Fender. When I rent amps, I find the modern Fender Deluxes fairly good tone-wise (although I went through about 5 on the last band tour, but that could have been down to rental company maintenance). On the Toronto gig you mention, I'm not sure what era that was, and exactly what I was using. If it was 80s, it could have been a MusicMan 2x10 or 4x10, both good amps and I don't think made any more. It could have been my Fender Vibroverb reissue, which is a very good sounding amp. Or a rental Deluxe. Or the Divided By 13. Sorry I can't be more specific.

Re: Breadth of musical knowledge
Firstly many thanks for answering my earlier e-mail regarding string noise and Thea Gilmore. I was jolly impressed that you liked Thea Gilmore a lot and also astounded that you had not only heard of but rated Ida Presti, who was one of the most musically intelligent classical guitarists of the 20th century. It actually led me to another question which I had been meaning to ask for a while which is how do you manage to maintain and develop what seems to be an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of not just genres of music but also of a large number of artists within those genres. This has come across in previous answers you've given. I know music is your job but how do you find time to listen to music when you must spend a huge amount of time both practising and creating music? It clearly is an advantage otherwise you would not have been able to choose the repertoire for 1000 Years of Popular Music (any chance of you and Judith doing the theme to White Horses on the next outing?! Guilty pleasure but I have to ask.). I freely admit that the main question is borne out of jealousy since I spend a fair amount of time practising and rehearsing and it limits the time I have to actually listen to the vast treasure chest of recorded talent that is currently available. Martin Durnin

I really wish I could keep up, but I don't think I've been abreast of new music since 1972. It's an impossible task, and I have to rely on other people's recommendations. For the 1,000 Years show, I consciously take time out to research new pieces, and we probably play 50% material that is vaguely familiar.

The Stockholm incident.
On the afternoon of July 25, me and the Mrs were sitting outside a restaurant sipping a cold beverage awaiting the evenings concert, nice warm weather and nice cold beer. I look down the the street and there comes Mr T. walking all by his lonesome! I was so surprised that all I could produce was a meek "Mr Thompson!?" He looked at me, smiled a little and nodded and was gone... I cursed myself for not seeing him earlier, I could have struck up a small conversation, maybe had a photo taken, bought him a beer or tea or whatnot... Question is; can you walk around mostly unnoticed in most parts of the world without being observed by fans? By the way, I'm also the old man who almost fainted in front of the stage and had to lie down on the floor for a bit...Does such things happen frequently? The venue was very hot! Great gig anyway! Stig Modin, Sweden

The fainting was obviously a delayed effect from the shock of seeing me in the flesh. I can and do walk around anywhere and everywhere, and rarely get recognized, or if I am, people leave me alone. I'd say that I get stopped in the street more in New York than anywhere else, but that could be because New Yorkers aren't exactly shy and retiring, and are happy to tell you (and anyone else) precisely what they think of you (usually nice things). The same thing would probably happen in Barnsley, should I bravely venture out and about there (Geoff Boycott? Opinionated?) People faint frequently at my shows, usually from ecstasy (or Theakstons Old Peculiar).

I have just heard Fairport's "Bridge Over the River Danube" for the first time. As I have lived in Hungary for 25 years, I would be really grateful if you could flesh out "the story behind the song". Tom Chilton

I'd left the band by then – you'll have to ask the other Fairport lads.