Richard Thompson Plays “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”

rt_rasListen to this track by guitar demigod and British folk-rock granddaddy Richard Thompson. It’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, a song about a boy, a girl, and a motorbike, taken from Thompson’s 1991 record Rumour & Sigh, a gem, and a perennial live track from his best-selling record to date.

This record was something of a mid-career high point for Thompson, who’d been making records for a pretty long time by this point; over two decades, if you include his work with Fairport Convention, and the multitude of times he served as a sessioner for other artists. But,  just because an artist of his experience had had a few records out, it didn’t mean there wasn’t a masterpiece still left to deliver. And that’s what I think this song is; it’s a masterpiece.

It’s a song that gathers all of his strengths as an artist in one place. It features his superlative guitar-playing skills. It demonstrates his capacity for compelling storytelling in the style of traditional English ballads. And, most importantly of all, it shows his flair for emotionally connected undercurrents to a song’s narrative that makes you care about the characters, just as you should in any story.

But this song is important beyond what it represents in terms of Thompson’s output. It provided an important stylistic bridge, or rather pointed the way to one, from one musical tradition to another.

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