British Folk/Rock legend Richard Thompson could certainly qualify as being a man of few words when it comes to interviews. And when he's sequestered in his Woodstock, N.Y., acoustic guitar and songwriting camp, Frets and Refrains, where cellphone coverage is almost non-existent and email exchanges are the lone method of communication, the words come at an even greater premium. When asked how much time he devotes to teaching, his answer is both succinct and typically self-deprecating.
"This is the only teaching I do during the year," he responds. "I'm too busy teaching myself!"
The fact is that Thompson doesn't really need to do a great deal of talking; his nearly five-decade career as a singer, songwriter and guitarist of endless invention and his consistently stellar catalog require very little additional illumination. His brief but influential stint with Fairport Convention in the late '60s led naturally to a critically well-received but ultimately tumultuous duo with then-wife Linda Thompson, and when their personal and professional partnership imploded, he embarked on one of the most singularly brilliant solo careers in the history of music.
It has often been observed that Thompson's consistency has earned him a slavishly loyal following but it leaves little room for younger listeners to discover his amazing work. Perhaps that was on someone's mind when they added Thompson to this summer's already monumental Bob Dylan/Wilco/My Morning Jacket ticket. Rest assured it was not Thompson doing the calculating.
"I don't know the nuts and bolts of how these things happen," he says. "It's probably promoters, agents and managers talking to each other. I'm very glad they asked me, though."
Thompson has done shows with Wilco in the past and played a Spanish festival with Dylan, and his style is fluid enough to work in any context. The challenge is in trimming his marathon live set down to a fourth-band-on-the-bill configuration.
"We have basically 30 minutes, which is no time at all," says Thompson. "I'm thinking back to the '60s for inspiration, when I used to see package tours with seven or eight acts, and you'd see The Animals, The Hollies, Dave Clark, all doing 20-minute sets — the Beatles got half an hour — and somehow that was long enough to make an impact. It will be mostly an audience that knows nothing about us, so we'll try to be seductive!"
RICHARD THOMPSON plays Saturday, July 6 with Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket at Riverbend in Anderson. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.