By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — For a musician blessed with such remarkable talents, British folk-rock giant Richard Thompson remains far from a household name beyond his passionate cult of fans. One of the founders of pioneering U.K. folk-rock outfit Fairport Convention when he was in his late teens, Thompson helped shape the group’s electrified mix of Dylan covers, scintillating acoustic originals, and traditional English and Celtic folk tunes on influential albums like Unhalfbricking and Leige & Leif prior to his departure from the band in 1971.

In the decades since, Thompson proved himself to be a master of many trades. After his quirky 1972 solo debut Henry the Human Fly reportedly became one of the worst-selling albums ever for Warner Bros. (the eccentric effort would later be hailed for its fearless experimental slant), he would release a string of brilliant records with then-wife Linda Thompson. From the timeless 1974 classic I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight through to their heartbreaking 1982 swan song Shoot Out the Lights — a recording that still stands as one of the most vivid breakup albums ever made — the pair created a remarkable body of work.

Thompson would go on to a fruitful solo career, sharpening his already prodigious gifts as an evocative songwriter, darkly comical lyricist and one of the most blazing guitarists on the planet. Unlike many of his ’60s-era contemporaries, he has consistently produced new songs that stand with his best work, whether performing more delicate solo acoustic versions of his tunes or rocking out with an electric band. Thompson also established his own Beeswing Records, which has released steady stream of live recordings from many of his tours since the early 2000s, including the guitarist’s entertaining 1,000 Years of Popular Music that found him performing material ranging from the earliest known English-language songs and a medieval Italian dance tune to more contemporary songs made famous by the Who, the Beatles, Abba, Prince and even Britney Spears.

While his most recent tour to promote his acclaimed latest album 13 Rivers found Thompson returning to the U.S. backed by his longtime trio of drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk (sometimes augmented on second guitar by Bobby Eichorn) including two Bay Area shows last January, this time the guitarist will perform headlining solo acoustic sets at the Fillmore in San Francisco Thursday night and the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on Friday. Thompson will be joined by noted Austin, TX-based folk singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson at both shows.

Richard Thompson

Thursday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m. $36.50
The Fillmore

Friday, February 1, 8 p.m. $36.50
The Cocoanut Grove

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