The title of Richard Thompson‘s new album, “Still,” can have several different meanings, but Thompson himself favors one over the others.
“It could be read as ‘Is he still performing? I thought he died years ago,'” Thompson joked upon the record’s release.
Yes, Thompson’s been around that long, but the British singer/songwriter, known as a guitarist’s guitarist and a thinking-person’s lyricist, is indeed still at it. In fact, Thompson, who will perform Dec. 3 at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, is still at the top of his game.
The concert will include an acoustic set, and a set with Thompson’s trio (himself on guitars, Michael Jerome on drums and Taras Prodaniuk on bass), and will feature songs from “Still.”
That album, No. 40-something in Thompson’s career, is merely the latest piece of evidence that he remains the total package. Under-appreciated though he might be, Thompson’s stature as an artist seems to grow year by year.
Part of that is because Thompson, 66, is not one to sit still and repeat a formula. When it came time to record what would become “Still,” for example, Thompson picked Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, as producer.
“By this point, I’ve done about 40 albums on my own,” Thompson said. “I know how to make records. I know the process. But I also fall into my own patterns and habits.” Tweedy’s job was to break him of those habits.
“Still” was recorded in nine days at Tweedy’s studio in Chicago last winter. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, both in praising the record and in paying tribute to Thompson’s body of work.
“It’s an example of why Thompson is still worth hearing 43 years into a career that shows no signs of stopping,” the AllMusic Guide said of “Still.”
Thompson’s career began in the late-’60s with the groundbreaking British folk-rock band Fairport Convention, and while he has traveled far and wide since then, Thompson has never completely abandoned the influences of British folk music that continue to color his songs.
After five albums with Fairport Convention and a couple of tentative solo recordings, Thompson teamed up with his wife, Linda, in a musical duo. Their first album, “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” (1974), was a critical success. Their recording career together was bookended by 1982’s “Shoot Out the Lights,” which signaled the end of the Thompsons’ marriage and musical partnership.
Since then, Thompson has recorded primarily as a solo artist. Some career highlights:
— “Across a Crowded Room” (1985) an album of bitter breakup songs that included one of Thompson’s rare semi-hits, “When the Spell is Broken.”
— “Rumour and Sigh” (1991), a typically clever collection of songs highlighting Thompson’s way with words and his skill as a guitarist.
— “Mock Tudor” (1999) a high point of his work, as Thompson surveys the suburban landscape and comes away less than impressed.
— “Electric” (2013) and “Acoustic Classics” (2014) demonstrate that Thompson is comfortably excellent with any kind of guitar in his hands.
Thompson was born in the Nodding Hill section of London. He learned to play guitar from his father, an amateur musician, formed rock bands while still in school and joined Fairport Convention when he was 18 years old.
In 2011, Thompson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to music.