In his first proper acoustic release since 1982's concert album Small Town Romance, British folk legend Richard Thompson pares back the finery on Acoustic Classics, a totally solo, acoustic reworking of 14 well-loved songs from his back catalog. Considered a studio companion piece to his frequent solo acoustic tours, the album reflects the modern arrangements he's developed for classic songs like "Wall of Death," "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," and "Beeswing." His influential guitar playing and showmanship have been well documented through a variety of late-career releases, but it's a true pleasure to hear his effortless command of the instrument as well as his rich, commanding baritone in the warm, unplugged format. While some songs like 1991's already acoustic "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" essentially get a mostly unaltered encore performance, it's interesting to hear something like the lonesome "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" updated with Richard singing instead of ex-wife Linda. This record could easily have been chalked up as a gap-filling acoustic highlight reel between new releases, but he attacks these older songs with true enthusiasm and a tastefulness that make this an essential album for Thompson fans and British folk fans in general.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger