Q&A: February 2012, Part I
3/17/2012 (updated 1/1/1900)

Hello, i would like to start off by saying how excellent your studio and live work is from Fairport Convention to your work with Linda. You may have been asked this many times but: out of the many musicians you have recorded with, who did you think was your true musical soul mate? The musician that you feel when you wrote and performed with them you were at your absolute musical peak. Thank you very much. Jordan

I think I have a lot of true musical soul mates - it's not like Mormon marriage, you know. I play with a lot of great musicians with whom I have long-standing empathy, or instant rapport. In fact, I would say that it's more the norm to feel great empathy with the musicians you play with. I think once you get above a certain technical level, and the egos are less of a factor, everyone starts to listen to everyone else, and beautiful things can happen.

You often cite Les Paul to be among your listening preferences. Did you ever visit any of his Monday night shows at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York? After the great man's passing Jeff Beck hosted a Les Paul tribute evening there and later released a DVD of the event. Have you seen this? Is this something that you would have liked to be a part of? Thank you. Vincent

I grew up listening to Les, so he was a formative influence. I saw him at Fat Tuesdays in New York, probably back in the 80s. He told great stories, and still played those classic Les Paul licks. I haven't seen the Jeff Back thing.

I recently stumbled onto some You Tube videos of Anne Briggs … I was blown away by her voice & guitar style, and followed up by learning a bit about her influence on the British folk scene back when you were getting started in Fairport. Is it true that Anne was the template for the female protagonist in "Beeswing"???  She seems like a likely candidate to me…. Cheers, and I hope to see you perform again ASAP!!! Mike Armstrong

As you say. Ann Briggs is a fine singer, and an important figure in the traditional music revival. She might be a small part of 'Beeswing', although most of that song is based on conversations I had with a tramp back in Suffolk. I would stress that everything I know about Ann are from stories that Sandy used to tell me, so it's not necessarily based on reality!

To what extent do you seek out collaborators and/or band mates based on their capacity to support you - to chase you down a musical rabbit hole - versus their capacity to challenge you with something new & exciting to chase?  I'm asking because as guitar gods go, you seem like a relatively humble and modest person - perhaps even occasionally delightful. But when it comes to playing music with others, in just about every setting you're at the center of attention and everyone seems to be doing things your way. I imagine this is mostly by your design (it's your music, after all) and by now you know what works for you and what doesn't. But, there are also plenty of important musicians who have chosen not to be so "in charge" all of the time, because it was actually more inspiring musically, or less stressful, or whatever.  Would you ever take a less-than-prominent role in someone else's band (for more than just a performance or two)? Have you ever come across a collaborator who has really gotten you out of your comfort zone, for better or worse? Thanks for taking the time to answer, and especially for making such great music! Sincerely, Ann B. Arlington, VA

Part of my comfort zone is being challenged, and I only work with people who have that capacity to confront and surprise, as well as support and be empathetic - here we go again - relating to the above question.

Re: Music Sheet Request
Oh dearest beekeeper, keeper of the buzz, I have searched the Net high and low, wide and far, up and down, in and out, and can find only one place in the entire universe that can provide me with the guitar tabs for One Door Opens. That's Volume 3 of Richard Thompson's songbook available only through his website for $39 plus shipping across the ocean. Is there a way I can buy it via the digital sheet music route? It is not currently available there. I would really like to play this song. Lyrics are all over the place for free, but not the guitar chords. (I will then have to translate them into a dulcimer tuning.) I'm not looking to rip off RT. Thanks muchly, Linda Kay

Many individual songs are available from Regrettably, it appears that One Door Opens is not available at this time. It is only in volume 3 of the songbook.

I am just back from a trip round cape horn, and sat down to re-read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner... The 4th last verse starts "Farewell, Farewell", and by coincidence your song with Sandy singing, on my favourite album, has 4 verses, of identical cadence... .a coincidence? Sandy, of course, is still my favourite singer and voice. Ps. We once met in London, when I accosted thou on the street, embarrAssed to walk past a face I recognised... I think I'd seen you at Glastonbury a few weeks previously. You of course didn't know me from Adam. Ciao, and thanks for all the great songs. Richard Sicree. PPS. 30+ years of listening.

Probably humans have been saying goodbye twice for aeons. Does that make it pretty definite? I'd love to think I was subconsciously echoing STC.