Thank you for asking II
8/21/2007 (updated 8/21/2007)

Last night I watched a documentary about the making of the soundtrack for “Grizzly Man” and it was stunning. It was perhaps one of the most beautifully filmed studio doc’s I’ve ever seen and I fell in love with Richard Thompson’s playing.

I’m very curious what the 2 primary acoustics he was playing were exactly. I’d guess they were circa 1920’s/1930’s. One was a 12- fret slot-head parlor, but I couldn’t tell much beyond this. The other was deeper and looked to be about a 0 or 00-sized body, but the headstock was unfamiliar to me and the inlays were rather unique and interesting. I was guessing this guitar was rosewood back and sides, but I’m not certain. Regardless, they proved to be the perfect tools for this session and watching Richard play them was enthralling.

If there’s any info available on these guitars I’d be very interested to know more. Lee Howard

I’ve asked Henry Kaiser to answer this question:

“Both guitars belong to me and are from the 1890's.

The Nashville high-strung guitar (used for the fox cue) is a parlor-sized Howe-Orme (this was HK's first acoustic guitar that he bought from Eric Schoenberg in the mid-70's).

The main acoustic guitar in the soundtrack is a Bohmann. It has Brazilian plywood back and sides. Joseph Bohmann was a Chicago based luthier who built the first production x-braced, steel-strung guitars in America.”

Richard, I love the dance tunes! "Tear Stained Letter", "Two Left Feet", to name a couple in this style. Your newest entry, "Bad Monkey", delivers in earnest. However, I am frequently perplexed when you take a straightforward polka-esque progression and apply a solo that sounds at once atonal, yet sits on the song perfectly. Sort of like lounging sideways in a chair. What are you doing? I am stymied at every turn. Noodling around a major scale is far to proper and stately. It's certainly not a bluesy minor pentatonic based thing. I hear sequencing up or down to follow the progression. Are we simply talking decorations over alternate voicings of the chord? Am I missing a hidden, yet critical augmentation? Am I thinking about it too much? Oh forsaken sleep, will you ever return? Paul, Carrboro, NC

There is no short answer to this, as we are entering the vast world of improvisation, and the possibilities are limitless. I’m basically borrowing ideas from Jazz and Classical music, that stretch the harmonic possibilities. A few aspects of this are: Using the upper intervals of chords, using substitute chords, mixing scales, using passing notes, using patterns that ‘clash’ against the chords but resolve harmoniously, etc. I could give you two small examples from ‘Bad Monkey’, because I’m concerned about your sleep…on one chorus, the first chord is D, the second is E major; instead of playing notes from the scale of E major over the E chord, I substitute the notes of another chord, an F# augmented 7, which has E, F#, B flat, and D. These notes also occur in a whole tone scale starting on D, and it can be thought of in that way as well. As long as you end on a note that coincides with the G chord, when it arrives, all is well. In another place, at the top of the chorus, I play a pentatonic figure in D. On my way to playing the same figure up a tone in E, I also play it, deliberately clashing, in E flat. It rubs, then resolves, tension and release. To explore further, I’d recommend listening to someone like Charlie Parker (there are many books on his style) and composers like Debussy and Ravel.

On the song "Johnny's Far Away", which is my favorite track on the album, are you or somebody in the band playing a bodhran? Or are you mimicking the sound of a bodhran with your guitar? Either way that celtic beat is what really makes this song so catchy, I find myself singing the chorus/refrain over and over everytime I listen to it. Take care, Bob Nelson

Michael Jerome is playing a drum kit, mostly on the tom-toms, mimicking a bodhran. He is something of a student of celtic music, and really makes that 12/8 rhythm swing.

I remember seeing a clipping from a 1974 music paper advertising a Linda Ronstadt concert at Dingwalls. The backing band listed Dave Mattacks on drums, Dave Pegg on bass, Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar, Andrew Gold on keyboards and yourself. Did this take place, and if so, what did you play? “Heart Like A Wheel” stuff? Cheers, Jamie Taylor

I’d forgotten all about this. Linda was coming to England, and wanted to do a show – I forget the circumstances. That was the proposed lineup – but it never happened.

Writing back after a few years to see if Richard is planning to bring the band to Austin during the upcoming tour . Since it is not on the web, I was hoping that it hasn't been ruled out. He hasn't been to Austin with a band since right after ‘Mock Tudor’ (which was really great), but it has been a long time. Thanks again, Mike Lasater

The band will be playing the Texas Union Ballroom on 22 September.