It's difficult to fix precisely the brand of anachronistic fever that infects the songs of Richard Thompson. Without specific references, he manages to conjure up the baleful events of distant times: you think of a troubadour mucking through an Arthurian miasma, a Jacobin hanger-on agog at the beheading of Danton, or maybe something more grisly--he seems, Greil Marcus once wrote, "to be singing from the plague years, following a cart full of corpses." All of which is to say that amid his folkish visions and steady guitar changes there's a lot of blood and a lot of time. His devout cult thrills to his virtuoso guitar work and the faithfulness of his musical vision; others might find his songs' genre excursions and lyrical romanticism--some would say political archaism--a bit tiresome. (He also has a dopey fondness for folkie novelty numbers.) But on the new Mirror Blue there's a lot of genius: the cartoony murder-suicide of "Shane and Dixie"; the callow narrator of the ballad "Beeswing," unmoved by the Summer of Love's "burning babies, burning flags"; the burnt shimmer of guitar on "For the Love of Mary." Over a career fully 25 years long, Thompson's become almost an august figure--he plays a music older than the blues, and what deed is more venerable than murder? Friday, 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven Danelian.