Was there just a momentary reality check for English guitar hero, singer and songwriter Richard Thompson when he learned this week that he’s in the running for two major awards from the Americana Music Assn.? Is that tantamount to Jimi Hendrix being saluted at the Brit Awards?
“I'm very honored to be considered for an Americana award, even if I demonstrably don't play an American style of music,” Thompson tells Pop & Hiss by e-mail while he’s on tour with his electric trio, which plays the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood on Friday night. He’s nominated as artist of the year, in a category with Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller, and song of the year for “Good Things Happen to Bad People.”
“I think Americana really just means roots music, and perhaps by including people like me they are trying to widen the boundaries of the genre,” said Thompson, who as a founding member of ‘60s folk-rock group Fairport Convention helped revive interest in traditional British folk music the waythe Weavers, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary and others did for American folk music in the 1950s and ‘60s. “In another era, perhaps they would have honored Bob Marley or Fela Kuti.”
In fact, the borders for the AMA’s nominations have never been strictly bound by geography. Notably, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant has been a favorite in recent years for his rootsy work and took album of the year honors in 2008 with Alison Krauss for their album “Raising Sand.”
Thompson, who hasn’t previously received any of the association’s nominations, caught the group’s ears this year with his “Electric” album produced by another of the AMAs favorite players, songwriters and producers, Buddy Miller.
“For this record, I was kind of inspired to write for a trio,” he said in the press kit for “Electric,” “kind of a more folky slant on Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience — a less powerful power trio. A wimp trio. I don’t know — we’ll think of a name.”
He’s touring with drummer Michael Jerome, who has played with Better Than Ezra and John Cale, and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, who has done stints with Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello, among others.
“We are having a great time on the road with the Trio," said Thompson, who last performed locally last fall in Santa Monica with a revival and expansion of his cabaret theater piece "Cabaret of Souls." “The audience seems to love the format. Sometimes less is more. It's a little more pressure on everyone, because in a trio there really is no place to hide — you are 'on' for two hours straight.
“Obviously it works great for the new album, which was designed for this lineup,” he added, “but we also manage to pull off a lot from the old repertoire, going all the way back to the ‘60s.”
BecauseThompson lives in the Southland much of the time when he’s not on the road, Pop & Hiss asked whether he had anything special in mind for his adopted-hometown crowd.
“In fact," he said, "we may pay tribute to the 'power trio' genre at some point on Friday.”
Here’s a short video with Thompson talking more about making the “Electric” album in Nashville:
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