2005 Answers to Your Questions III
1/13/2005 (updated 1/13/2005)

Jeanne: I've been paying attention to literary references in your lyrics. I recognize bits of folktales, classics, poetry, etc. What do you like to read?

I’ll read anything, from Viz Comics to Tolstoy (Anna and Vronsky in Up The Arse Corner?)
Recent reads:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke
Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
London Orbital – Iain Sinclair
Shadow Divers – forgotten the author – the one about diving on the wreck of U857
Philip Larkin – complete poems

Martin Schaefer: Dear Richard, Having read what you think of Dylan's "Chronicles" (did you know the NY Times referred to it as "fake Mark Twain"?), I would be most interested to hear what you, as a guitar player, make of pp.157ff., where Dylan refers to the blues man Lonnie Johnson and what he says he learned from him, i.e. a whole new system of guitar playing. As I don't play guitar myself, I don't understand a word of it; but you may, I hope!

I shall think twice about putting Dylan in the same sentence as Hitler again – oops! Did it again. How about Dylan and Stalin in a sentence? Damn and blast! It just sneaks up on you… Who am I to penetrate the great impenetratable…..I have no idea what Bob meant, what it meant to him personally. One could suggest that Lonnie Johnson was the first popular musician on record bending guitar strings – I can’t think of anyone earlier, but someone out there may know – and he had a beautiful symmetry to his playing. I love his work with Louis Armstrong, and the duets with Eddie Lang. To get back to ‘Chronicles’, briefly, I think I know now why I can’t bring myself to read it – I don’t want Bob the Enigma demystified.

Eric Stracener: Howdy from Mississippi! I very much enjoy the website ,and particularly the News From Home. Hashimoto sounds like a piece of work. On guitar tones-- when you record acoustic in the studio nowdays, which guitars do you prefer? I am particlarly enamored of the tone on "Baby Don't Know What to Do With Herself" on "You Me US?" as well as that on "First Breath" on the latest record. Both are, by the way, haunting, gorgeous tunes. What guitars did you use, and if you recall, what mics?
Do you ever trot out "Taking my Business Elsewhere" -- and for some reason it is the hardest of your songs I've ever tried to work out--what is the tuning, for God's sake man.

On ‘Baby Don’t Know’ I used my stage Lowden L32FC. On ‘First Breath’ I used another Lowden L32FC. I believe on both recordings we used large diaphragm mics, either Neumann U47 or Telefunken 251 (AKG C12). ‘Taking My Business’ uses Drop D tuning, capoed around 5th fret.

Dave D'Andrea: when can we expect Across A Crowded Room on dvd. As a long time fan, my vhs copy is about fried. Also, have you been working with the lovely christine collister and the less lovely yet talented mr gregson at all recently? I saw that tour at the defunct Chestnut Caberet in Philly and was immensely impressed with that lineup. Also can you tell me if you have recorded with either of the Cunningham brothers? Thanks for the inspiration all these years.

‘Across a Crowded Room’ re-release is up to Polygram. Haven’t worked with Christine recently, but did a couple of ‘bits’ for her DVD. Haven’t seen Clive for a couple of years. The only thing I’ve done with Phil Cunningham was a version of ‘Jimmy Shands’ for Radio Scotland.

Richard: I am a guitar player who wonders how you keep your solos so fresh and new? I seem to hear myself playing the same runs in some shape or form despite efforts to break new ground -- I have been playing awhile, am considered by peers to be not to shabby, but can't get free of my entrenched soloing habits. I particularly admire your complete freedom from the pentatonic cage and unique timing and phrasing. Any thoughts about how one can work on expanding and improving note selection and phrasing without woodenly forcing "new notes" into solos? Thanks

Charlie Parker never repeated himself, but everybody else does, to some extent. I comfort myself with the thought that those clichés are really ‘signature licks’. But we all must try to expand the envelope, so here’s some thoughts:

It’s all about scales, so practice weird ones – minor 7 flat 5, 13th scales, 11th scales, whole tone scales. Try double octave scales.

Change the emphasis when you play a scale – push the off beats, put the notes into groups of 3 or 5 or 7 or 10.

Put your guitar into a bizarre tuning, and then play a familiar fingering. Write down any interesting sequences, and try to play them in regular tuning.

Try to sing a solo instead of playing it. Try to sing along with a solo as you play it.

It’s all about the heart, so at some point, if you’ve done your homework, empty your mind of everything, and let your heart, not your brain, play a solo. Your fingers will know where to go…

Kevin Doonan: Hail hail, Richard, i understand your grandfather played for Celtic in the twenties or thirties,how much info do you have of him playing for the "mighty hoops" and maybe even a song could be conjured up in memory. ps any chance of a gig in morayshire (please not findhorn) in '05.

Paul Harris: Is that a Celtic badge I spy on Mr T's beret during the 'Austin' section of the DVD. Is Mr T a footie fan ? PS: Exellent solo show at the Usher Hall this year, by the way.

Celtic badge, yes guilty…I think someone gave it to me. It was my great uncle who played for the Hoops, I believe in the 20s, possibly in a cup-winning side? He would have spelled it Thomson. That’s all I know, and all the relatives who might have known have moved on.

Ric Ponder: Dear Richard Thompson, I am a fan of the last 12 years and have been very pleased with the amount and quality of work you have released.The DVD is great and I'm waiting for the release of the 1000 years tour on DVD. But here's the rub. I am one of those people that is hoping for a Songbook in 05. I know there are other fans because they periodically send requests like mine. I think something to accompany the release of the Box Set would be nice. I would also like to know if there are existing transcriptions of your songs other than the "Homespun" Book /CD and the few pieces of sheet music available.

The song book is a lot of work and I may have to recruit outside forces. I know there are folks asking for it, and I’ll do my best to get it out there.