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Savannah Music Festival: Richard Thompson

Opening for Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell April 3

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Since his early days as a founding singer and guitarist in the folk band Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson has generated a cult following that happily trails him through all sorts of musical discoveries and changes.

Rather than confound, the British acoustic guitar hero has delighted those international legions of Thompsonites with Electric, a new album that takes a bold left turn into Stratocaster territory while still adhering to the RT principal: Immaculately written songs, both lyrically and musically, sung in a clear-as-a-bell voice that's both worldly-wise and playfully inquisitive.

"I was kind of inspired to write for a trio, to put more of a folkie slant on Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience or something," Thompson says of his newest adventure. "A less powerful power trio."

Thompson and his power trio in the opening slot for for country rock legends Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell is not as big a leap as it might seem: Electric was recorded in Nashville, where Thompson has some serious acolytes, and produced by sometime Harris and Crowell collaborator Buddy Miller.

For any artist who's been around for 40 years or more, Thompson says, "Style kind of morphs into cliché. I think you have to challenge the audience with new material, and they will challenge you back. And I'm glad to say I have those kinds of fans at this point."

Still, the Richard Thompson Electric Trio (as it's billed for this Savannah Music Festival show) may confuse a few of the faithful. But that's what artists do; they experiment and move continually forward.

"I think we've invented a new genre: funk/folk," says Thompson. "I'm not sure the world is ready for it. But we've done it anyway."

See richardthompson-music.com

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