ACOUSTIC CLASSICS II (Beeswing/Planet)
This is Richard Thompson in the raw. No distractions, interaction or grooves. Three years after the first Acoustic Classics comes this second volume of songs stripped back to the stings and caresses of his acoustic guitar and a voice that can variously sound as if it is crying for help in a medical emergency, shredding an interlocutor or tenderly reminiscing. The lyric of the opening She Twists the Knife Again, about a lover unable to forgive and forget, is spat out with singular venom over slashing, agitated guitar, and Pharoah loses its thundering drums, yet becomes more nightmarish.
The acoustic format not only allows greater focus on Thompson’s gift for incisive lyrics, but also on his acoustic guitar playing: the sudden barbs on the treble strings that impale you even as the lyric is at your throat. For that complete package of songs, lyrics, singing and guitar playing Thompson has precious few peers. Perhaps only John Martyn, and he was fried by his own genius. That said, ultimately there are even better collections of his songs than this.