While California has been his home for some years, guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson continues to make regular trips back to the UK.

His latest sojourn has seen him embark on a series of festival appearances, including Warwick, Cambridge, Towersey and now Moseley Folk Festival later this month.

“I think festivals are great,” says Richard. “You get to hear a lot of music you’d not get to hear anywhere else, and you get a chance see old pals.”

To coincide with the dates, he has released a new album, Acoustic Classics, which sees him revisit tracks from his post-Fairport Convention back catalogue including I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight and Dimming Of The
Day (both recorded with ex-wife Linda in 1974 and ‘75) and 1991’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.

“In most cases, these songs, like Wall Of Death or Valerie, were electric or sung by Linda. So I just wanted something that was representational of me playing acoustic. I probably do about two-thirds of my shows acoustic now,” says Richard, who recorded the collection in his home studio, in LA.

“It’s not a real studio, it’s just the guest-house, so there’s no real sound-proofing,” he adds. “It is quiet around here (in LA) but when a dog barks or a plane flies over, you can hear it. It’s quietest at the middle of the night, so that’s a good time to record.”

Prior to returning to the UK, Thompson was performing his All Request concerts in the US – shows which see him pander completely to the audience.

“It’s anything. My songs, anyone’s songs,” he says of the improvised set list. “When people come in, they are given a slip and can make eight requests, and I just pull them out of a bucket, which saves all that shouting out. I get requests for obscure songs of mine, Gilbert and Sullivan, songs from South Pacific, The Kinks ... anything!”

He has a near encyclopaedic knowledge of music (as proven by his previous 1000 Years Of Popular Song tours, in which he performed covers spanning 1,000 years), though he does admit that the All Request shows can cause a few headaches. But that’s all part of the fun.

“There are some things I can’t do but most I’ll have a go at ... which is entertainment for some people,” he laughs. “Sometimes I’ll pull out 12 songs and ‘Please!’, they defy me, there’re so obscure. But the last one I did, I could play everything.”

He’s never done the format in Britain, but would love to try.

“I would consider it. The venue has to be right. It goes right in venues of 400 or less,” he says.

But next on his to do list is a new EP.

“There’s an electric EP at the end of the summer with five songs. It’s called Boulevard Variations – it’s variations of other people’s songs that you would not necessarily recognise. For example, Variations On A Theme By The Troggs which takes a basic chord structure the Troggs would use and redoes it in a way that’s unrecognisable... and hopefully ‘unsueable’,” he laughs.

* Moseley Folk Festival runs from August 29-31. For more information and tickets, see: www.moseleyfolk.co.uk

Moseley Folk Festival top picks

By Luke Beardsworth

* Lisa Knapp – Sunday, Main Stage

Lisa Knapp has been around since 2007 but she still feels like a new artist on the scene. That’s because on all of her releases she continues to sound like a gust of fresh air. She’s a mixture of the traditional folk and singer-songwriter style that you’ll be familiar with and more modern electronic techniques.

* The Waterboys – Sunday, Main Stage

Most people will be familiar with The Waterboys. They’re a veteran act formed 30 years ago who achieved huge levels of success when they released their album Fisherman’s Blues. Expect a greatest hits set that should include jukebox favourite The Whole of the Moon.

* The Felice Brothers – Saturday, Main Stage

In 2006, The Felice Brothers started busking in New York, despite having never played an instrument before. Fast forward to 2014 and they’ve supported big name players such as Mumford & Sons and The Killers. Their DIY nature comes across when you listen to them because this is not your average folk music.

Johnny Marr
Johnny Marr
 

* Johnny Marr – Friday, Main Stage

Johnny Marr has one of the most impressive lists of admirers in music today. He inspired everyone from Noel Gallagher to Matt Bellamy to pick up a guitar thanks to his wonderful work with The Smiths and later with supergroup Electronic. These days, when he isn’t telling David Cameron he isn’t allowed to like The Smiths, he’s performing as a solo act. His shows have received universal praise thanks to both the strength of his own material and the fantastic covers of his former acts that he performs.

* Midnight Bonfires – Friday, Lunar Stage

Midnight Bonfires are another local act playing Moseley Folk Festival that we have to recommend. As well as garnering coverage from the BBC over here they have also been picked up by several radio stations in both America and Canada.

* Thurston Moore - Friday, Main Stage

Alongside Friday’s headliner, Thurston Moore is one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He started Sonic Youth in 1980 and edited numerous music fanzines at that time. He tours as a solo act and with a band that plays alongside him and has a new album due out in September 2014. He doesn’t tend to perform Sonic Youth material though.