Q&A August 2011, Part II

Re: Haul Me Up
Dear Richard,
I'm your antipodean doppelganger (if we're not counting artistic achievement among the criteria) - born February '49, only 2 months ahead of you in the race to oblivion. Been with you in spirit since "What We Did on Our Holidays". I was the only writer in the southern hemisphere to review "Henry" at the time of its first appearance. And it WAS a rave review.

Anyway, listening to "Haul Me Up" tonight while doing other things, I suddenly noticed its resemblance to "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" (albeit at more frenetic pace). This is not an accusation of plagiarism, just an idle observation ... should you be thinking "what's he on about?" put it on and wait for a little while.  The likeness emerges if you're not staring straight at it. Thanks for forty years viscerally thrilling, emotionally moving and intellectually stimulating music. Best always, Robert Smyth

I don't see it myself. The two songs relate to others, but not to each other, in my mind. But your observation is noted.

I'm really looking forward to your performance at the Rhythm and Roots festival in RI this September!  I am really just 'discovering' your music though my husband has been a big fan for some time. I've recently downloaded the On the Path app (and your lessons) and can't say enough about how fantastic those are !!!!!!!! (I'm certain you're getting lots of excellent feed back on that endeavor - only wish they were around about 20+ years ago : )

My main reason for writing though is curiousity about what woods you've come to like in a guitar in terms of balance. I'm going to attempt building my own sometime soon and I like how cedar tops sound. Though i wonder if overly 'warm tone' top woods with something like rosewood sides make for overly 'slushy'/ unarticulated bass tones. Thanks so much! Regards, Lauren Page-Lake

I like cedar tops – my current Lowden signature model had cedar top and Zircote back and sides, and it sounds big, punchy and even-toned. Maybe in 100 years time a spruce top will sound brighter, I don't know. George Lowden discusses the merits of his various models on his website ( You find all kinds of wood combinations working on guitars, and also combinations that should work sounding dull or puny, and much of this is down to the skill and instinct of the builder, and the condition of the instrument.

Re: A tour in France for 2011?
Good Evening M. Thompson,
Do you plan to come to see us in France during your 2011 tour? I discovered your music through the David Gilmour's reprise of a "Dimming of the Day" and I'd really like to hear it live! Thanks for your answer, Guillaume Vaslin

We did get to Paris in 2011, and maybe we can be back next year.

Re: Paoulo Nutini's Beeswing
I would love to know if you have heard Pauolo Nutini's version of Beeswing and what you think of it. I have no idea what he is trying to do with his voice but to me it sounds like some kind of comic version of a music hall Scottish accent.  Graeme Watson

That accent is his real voice. I think he's a great talent, and I'm very chuffed that he would do my song.

How aware were you in the late sixties/early seventies of the very innovative stuff happening on the Irish folk scene, like Planxty and the Bothy Band? Did your paths ever cross? And how would you rate some of our own DADGAD pioneers from the period like the late Micheal O'Domhnaill and Daithi Sproule? Stephen, Ireland

Loved Planxty and the Bothys, less familiar with the guitarists you mention.

If you were to play "One Song to the Tune of Another" with your songs, which would you choose? I thought of "She Twists the Knife Again" to the tune of "The Sun Has Got It's Hat On" or "You Can't Win" to the tune of "Knees Up Mother Brown". Mike Daniels

Nice choices. I could add 'Beeswing' to the tune of 'Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer', and 'Shoot Out The Lights' to the tune of 'Nellie The Elephant'.

Hi Richard! I was wondering if you have ever played Guns are the Tongues in concert, since it is one of my favorites. If not, why? Can you tell us a bit about the songwriting process for that song? Are there any future plans for playing in Mexico City? Hearing you play live is a dream of mine. All the best, Ricardo Cázares - Mexico City, Mexico

We played 'Guns' on the band tour supporting the Sweet Warrior album. I've done it solo occasionally, but it's a tough proposition without other musicians adding colour and dynamics, because of its strange structure. It starts with a lot of verses back to back, before the first chorus, and because of the way the story unfolds, it really isn't possible to change that. I wrote it lyrics first, which probably helps to explain the way it ended up.

It would be wonderful to play in Mexico City, but we don't get a lot of requests to play south of the border – in fact yours is the first! 

First of all, many thanks for the great gigs in the UK in July. I was the rather annoying person who shouted out for "Willy O'Winsbury" in Milton Keynes and then two days later "Tear Stained Letter" in Treorchy. Two RT gigs in three days made up for countless years of no RT gigs, being a relatively recent "convert" to your music. Now to the question. Do spontaneous requests during  a show put you off or do you encourage audience participation (football).  I suppose I felt a little guilty as I am sure you spend hours slaving over the perfect set list.....maybe! I heard about your "bucket" shows in the US. Do you still do these and would you contemplate a "bucket show" on the next tour? Thanks. Tony O'Rourke (listening to "Willow Tree/Bean Setting" as I write).

I like the fact that audiences can feel relaxed enough to shout out requests. It usually doesn't bother me at all, and I think it helps to loosen things up, and reduce the distance between the stage and the listeners.