Since beginning his professional career at the tender age of 18 in UK folk-rock trailblazers Fairport Convention, for more than 40 years Richard Thompson has blazed one of the truly singular trails in pop music. Equally gifted as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Thompson returns to the area with Loudon Wainwright III for a Sounds of Texas Music Series bonus show in Conroe Sunday.
Houston Press: What is your most requested song and why?
Richard Thompson: "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." It's basically a ballad — a story song — and runs to five minutes, so it's surprising people will spend the time to listen to a story unfold in a very traditional musical way. That gives me hope for the sound-bite generation. It's also possible people are merely impressed by length — you know how those radio polls to find the greatest single of all time always come up with "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Whipping Post," "Free Bird" — basically anything pretentious and over five minutes.
HP: What are the evergreen songs for you, and what is it about them?
RT: I can play "1952 Vincent" every night. A song must say something for you as a performer, keep on giving you an experience every night. Some really old songs, like "Meet On the Ledge," which I wrote at 19, I do have to find new ways of looking at. My life perspective has changed and I have to forgive myself for some naiveties in the lyric.
HP: You've been at this so long, have you gotten beyond practice/rehearsal? Eric Clapton says he's still religious about practicing scales.
RT: You never stop practicing! Scales are essential building blocks, and if you are a composer, a lot of time is spent exploring new music.
HP: Who were your most significant teachers?
RT: Musically, I'm mostly self-taught. A couple of my sister's boyfriends helped me get started, and I took a year of classical when I was 12. But I had inspirational teachers at school in visual arts and English that certainly made a difference in my life.
HP: How do you keep it fresh?
RT: You have to love music and be accepting of the lifestyle, and not work to the point of burning out. I'm always fascinated to see what's around the next bend of the river.
HP: What do you do to get away from the grind?
RT: Nature is my escape. Just the gardening at home, hiking up in the hills, flying off to a rain forest somewhere.
HP: How was the collaboration with Loudon for the Knocked Up soundtrack?
RT: I produced two albums for Loudon in the '80s, so we knew each other. The movie was Loudon's project; I was just a guitar player.
HP: Did you participate in the Fairport Convention reunion gigs last year?
RT: I did, and it was terrific. I've lost count of which anniversary this was — I think the 42nd.
HP: Several people from Conroe remarked you seemed to really like the place.
RT: It seems a wonderful little community, and, boy, that Italian restaurant [Coronelli's Villa Italia]!
Former Houston alt-rockers Blue October canceled their "Pick Up the Phone" club tour, which was to raise money and awareness for suicide-prevention and mental health services, after front man Justin Furstenfeld was hospitalized for an "extreme mental anxiety attack," according to a statement from the band's management. The tour was not routed through Houston, but the concluding two-night stand at Stubb's in Austin November 20 and 21 is still on.
Congratulations to Houston bluesman Sonny Boy Terry, who won the Houston regional round of the International Blues Challenge last week. Terry moves on to compete with more than 100 other blues performers in the finals, which take place in Memphis January 20-25.
99 E. Crosstimbers, 713-694-6800
1. Z-Ro, Cocaine
2. Various Artists, Silky Soul Music: An All-Star Tribute to Maze
3. Bebe & Cece Winans, Still
4. Young Jeezy, As Real As It Gets
5. Cash Money Billionaires, Still Fly
6. Donnie Ray, It's BYOB
7. Mariah Carey, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel
8. Trey Songz, Ready
9. Lil Wayne, Unbreakable
10. Brian McKnight, Evolution of a Man
Houston's Adult Alternative
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Top songs, October 30
1. Pearl Jam, "The Fixer"
2. Ingrid Michaelson, "Maybe"
3. David Gray, "Fugitive"
4. Dave Matthews Band, "Why I Am"
5. Kings of Leon, "Notion"
6. Wilco, "You Never Know"
7. U2, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
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8. Death Cab for Cutie, "Little Bribes"
9. Green Day, "21 Guns"
10. John Mayer, "Who Says"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)