Getting a Big Sound from Acoustic Guitar Music

By Aberback, Brian | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), April 21, 2015 | Go to article overview

Getting a Big Sound from Acoustic Guitar Music


Aberback, Brian, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


Richard Thompson is going acoustic on his current tour, but he's not mellowing out. The pioneering and prolific British folk rock guitarist has a remarkable ability to generate a full band sound from a hollow-bodied instrument.

"There's a plausible orchestra within a guitar," Thompson said by phone. "Playing acoustically is more than just strumming. You come up with the chord structure, and then the bass line over the top.

"You can use open tunings to create a bigger sound. You try to find a way to render a song as powerful as how you've played it with three or four other musicians."

Thompson, widely regarded as one of the most inventive and inimitable acoustic and electric guitarists the world over, performs Wednesday in Newark. His latest album, "Acoustic Classics," features 14 songs spanning his more than 40-album catalog, including remakes of both electric and acoustic material.

"It's a blend of new songs and old songs based on audience response and requests," said Thompson, 66, who alternates between acoustic and full-band tours. "I didn't have an album representative of the acoustic shows."

He said the original intention was to sell "Acoustic Classics" only at his concerts, but the record company wanted to give it a proper release.

"Acoustic Classics," released last summer, was a surprise hit, entering the British charts at No. 16.

Electric tracks gone acoustic include "Wall of Death" and "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," originally performed by Thompson with his then-wife, Linda. "Wall of Death" is a prime example of Thompson's vibrant and forceful sound. The song also spotlights his dazzling finger-picking. "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" takes on a new urgency in its unplugged form.

Thompson said the most noticeable difference between playing an acoustic show compared to electric is the hushed silence of the audience. "There's a stillness in the room, and you draw people more into the story of the song," he said. …

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