Richard Thompson has more than once expressed an opinion (held by few others) that the guitar playing on his recordings of the '60s and '70s isn't especially good. Thompson believes that he's a much better player now than he was in his early days, and in some respects he's right, though the melodic ideas behind his dazzling solos have always been just as important as his estimable technique, which truly has improved with time. Between his mixed feelings about some of his work and the fact he's been performing increasingly as an acoustic act in the 2010s, it makes sense that Thompson might want to revisit some of the tunes from his back catalog, and as the title suggests, 2017's Acoustic Classics II is the second album in which he's cut new interpretations of some of his favorite pieces from his repertoire. On most of these 14 tracks, the arrangements have been pared down to just Thompson's guitar and vocals (a few feature discrete overdubs), and anyone who has seen one of his solo shows knows he can work magic with such a simple format. Here, Thompson's guitar work is subtly brilliant, even at its simplest, and his vocals remind us that he's the most intelligent and nuanced interpreter of songs. And beyond simplifying his performances, here Thompson puts a fresh spin on several of these numbers, and "Devonside," "Jet Place in a Rocking Chair," "Crazy Man Michael," and "The Ghost of You Walks" have a decidedly different feel as they appear here. And if "Guns Are the Tongues" got lost in the shuffle on 2007's Sweet Warrior, it's a true standout here. The performances on Acoustic Classics II don't supplant the original recordings, but they do offer compelling alternate versions of some of the gems from his songbook, and this is a simple but satisfying addition to Thompson's recorded catalog.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming