Answers to those tricky questions, Part IV
8/8/2008 (updated 8/8/2008)

Hi Richard. When you sing, you have a very musical accent that adds a lot of European soul and tradition to your music, as well as the wide variety of music that you interpret. By contrast, when I sing, my accent sounds like crap. I have a Southern California accent with a subtle "Spiccoli" surf twang that is slightly disturbing to the ear. Shall I fake an accent, like folks on both sides of the pond seem inclined to do, or should I just accept the fact that I should relegate myself to Beach Boys covers for the rest of my life? Thanks!! Jonathan P. Read

I think most people use a ‘singing voice’ which is slightly, or dramatically different from their own. I know my accent is a bit more ‘folky’ than my speaking voice, but that probably reflects my influences, and I’m trying to be as natural as possible. To assume a Southern US accent, a la Mick Jagger, when you come from Richmond, Surrey, raises some ethical questions, but he’s gotten away with it for years, and now Americans copy his bastardized accent, so it’s become authentic somehow. If you’re going to ape another accent, you’d better do it really well, or have a lot of cojones, like Mick. Steve Winwood is a great singer, whose accent doesn’t bother me, even though he comes from Birmingham. As a precedent for you, how about John Fogerty? He comes from Northern California, but sings like he’s from the Bayou. Heavens forfend you should end up sounding like Al Jardine. But then, Neil Young sounds Californian to me, not Canadian.

Was wondering if you had any thoughts on the David Davis affair over in Britain and the broader question of 42 days. Setting aside all partisan considerations, there seem to me to be resonances between "The New St. George" and the spirit in which Davis is making his stand. Interesting piece by Jan Morris in the Guardian today on this --
Would be interested to hear your perspective: are people in Britain losing the ability to think for themselves, to stand on their own two feet as independent individuals within a society? Or is there a different way that the issue should be framed?
Really enjoy "Q&A" -- always thoughtful, always insightful -- and tuning tips and cricket commentary are welcome additions. Ash Baker

The Guardian article was suggesting that the Brits wanted to be docile, and led by the nose, and there may be some truth to that. Terrorism is certainly a test of civil liberty, and the danger is that you push the limits of freedom too far, and end up the same as the enemy. The US surely went too far under Bush, ripping up habeas corpus, the Geneva Convention, ordering torture from the top government levels, and actually having a plan for microchip implants! If that doesn’t turn you into a totalitarian government, what does? Not to mention promoting Democracy overseas by overthrowing sovereign states and democratically-elected governments, and rigging the ballot box back home. Britain still seems a country run by the people in comparison.

I am a big fan of '52 Vincent. I found two additional verses attributed to RT during a live performance. My source is here:

I'm wondering if these lyrics are published anywhere else and most of all what is the meaning (if it is a correct transcription) of "They poured in his ashes as the /panwoods flowed"/ Do you have any information on this? Thanks, Tom O Connor

I can’t find my copy of the 2 extra verses, and I can’t open that website. The line you quote is garbled, and may bear little relation to the original. I only sang the extras one time, and then thought better of it.

Not sure if anyone's asked this before (I don't recall seeing it) but it seems such an obvious question: you and Swarb were a fine songwriting partnership for a while in Fairport's early days. Now that his recovery seems secure, have either of you had any thoughts about working together again in this capacity? You generally seem to write pretty much solo these days - are there any other writers (music or lyrics) you could see yourself working with? Cheers, and hope to see you soon. Graham Keevill

Swarb did ask me recently to work on a project, but geography and workload meant that I couldn’t do it, great though it would have been to work with him again. I think we wrote some fine and unusual songs together.

Generally, I am a reluctant co-writer, but good things can happen when I’m forced into it.

I see you are listed between Johnny Rotten and Robert Smith in the Telegraph's recent list of 50 best British songwriters. Other than negative comments about all these irksome Hornby inspired lists, I wonder if you have any comment about the company you keep. Nigel, Albany NY

Good taste generally precludes comments of a negative nature about fellow-musicians. At this point I might not recognise half the names there anyway, but I’m sure they’ve got Morrissey, Ray Davies, the Mop Tops, I hope they’d have Ewan McColl, and Kirsty, and I’d be happy in that sort of company.

A transporting experience in Lowell, Massachusetts, last night--thank you so much! What IS that wonderful instrument you played? Looked like a Taylor Grand Concert from my vantage point, but I wasn't close enough to be sure. Sounded like two or three guitars, but of course that's you. Fill me in? Many thanks for an exhilarating evening--well worth the six hour drive up from Jersey (New Jersey, that is). Tad Tuleja

How dare you even suggest that I might touch, let alone play. a TAYLOR!!

My axe, Sir, is a Lowden L32FC, see nerdy gear page for info.

Dear Mr Thompson,
I have just found a 7-inch diameter circular black vinyl disc in my garden. Is this a record? Yours truly, B Trellis (Mrs)

I doubt it…what you have here, obviously, is a discus, probably Hellenic, c.500BC, furthering the theory that the Greeks not only colonized most of the world, but that they also invented vinyl some time before EMI. I’m certain that if you dig down 15 or 20 feet, you will uncover columns, amphitheatres, gymnasiums, the whole ancient street plan.

Do you know which guitar with what strings were used in Mr. Thompson's "Bee's Wing"? Thank you sincerely, Tom Victor

The guitar was my rosewood Lowden L32FC, and I can’t remember the strings – probably D’Addario Phosphor Bronze.