Reality with the top rolled off! they declared when they heard the acetate played back. All the momentum of Richard Thompson’s powerful guitar playing was there in the lacquer, all the urgency and command in his voice right there spinning back at us at 78rpm. But there was nothing to fear, nothing anyone’s ears could find out of place. It sounded as it did in the room, intimate, precise, confessional, strong. It sounded as it did in our wildest dreams.
He jokingly referred to it as his “suburban English” version. Almost a hundred years ago Clarence Ashley had taken an old English folk ballad and made it Appalachian with a turn of his banjo’s tuners. And Richard had taken it again with his deft fingers dancing over guitar strings, and made it new.
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Richard told two tales of rakish scalawags that day. In the first he became a gambler hoping to win a heart as he wins at cards and dice, while in his original, “How Many Times”, he takes on the role of a jaunty, jilted hunter, determined to capture his love in the end.
The gypsy queen said it was the oldest song in the world. Even before he told us so, we felt that long history of “The Coo Coo Bird” in the sure motions of Richard’s fingers on the guitar strings and the dark depth of his voice. In a borrowed room, we borrowed what might be the oldest song in the world, and cut it deep into acetate.
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Thanks to all who were able to join us at City Winery on Sunday, May 20. It was beautiful to see our New York Series artists take the stage together to celebrate the shared experience of field recording. And we couldn’t have been more honored to have Marshall Crenshaw join us onstage to record a 78 acetate live with the stage monitors silenced and the eyes of the audience upon him. It was a most moving moment in a night filled with many a momentous feeling.
We’ve posted photos from the show on our Facebook here. And you can listen to the digitized versions of Marshall’s acetates, “More Pretty Girls Than One,” and “Passing Through” below.
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Richard Thompson (Official Teaser)
The man travels with just one guitar. We have heard it said that you can only truly know One of your chosen instrument, which seems to have some fervent truth to it. One microphone stands between us and silence, one acetate holds all of our hopes. And, on a recent February afternoon, one New York hotel room was our whole world as Richard Thompson’s voice, sure and broad, poured forth “The Coo Coo Bird.”