Richard Thompson, the insightful British songwriter and master guitarist, is bringing in his electric trio to New Orleans. Thompson booked his February 3 show at House of Blues as a prelude to his voyage on the Cayamo Cruise. Also featuring John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Patty Griffin and dozens more, the sold-out Cayamo: A Journey Through Song sails from New Orleans on February 4.
In 1967, Thompson co-founded Fairport Convention, the band that set the template for British folk-rock. Following three hectic years and five albums, Thompson left Fairport Convention for a solo career. In 1972, he formed a duo with his future wife, Linda Peters. The Thompsons’ five albums include the acclaimed 1982 project that signaled the end of their marriage, Shoot Out the Lights.
The solo Thompson carried on, releasing dozens more albums. In 2017, he issued Acoustic Classics II, Acoustic Rarities and the box set Live at Rockpalast. His new electric album will debut next summer.
In 2014, you released Acoustic Classics. Did it exceed expectations?
I thought, ‘If we sell a few thousand of these, that will be great.’ But my record company heard I wanted to put it out. Acoustic Classics became a Top 10 record in the U.K. It far exceeded expectations. I realized that it filled a niche I’d been missing. The new acoustic records further address that niche.
You switched gears to electric for your upcoming album.
It’s nice that I can do both acoustic and electric in the studio. It’s nice that I can perform electric on the road with a band. Perhaps I’ll play a venue one year acoustic and then the next year with a band. It keeps it fresh.
Can you preview the new electric album?
Dare I say I’m very pleased with it. I like all the songs.
You teach songwriting and guitar every summer at your Frets and Refrains camp in Big Indian, New York. Can you reveal some fundamental concepts you share with students?
In these times we live in, the most important thing, as a guitar player and a songwriter, is to be an original. Everything else is secondary. A million blues guitar players are influenced by the same three people. But if somebody spends their life listening to the Carpenters and Shostakovich and Lester Young, they’ll have an original viewpoint.
Why did you book a one-off show at House of Blues on the night before you board the Cayamo singer-songwriter cruise from New Orleans?
I love going to New Orleans. I love playing in New Orleans. I love listening to New Orleans music. Any excuse to get to New Orleans, great. Any excuse to play there, fantastic.