The British folk singer-songwriter/guitar god Richard Thompson cut 16 tracks for his latest record, Electric – out February 5th on New West Records – in a speedy, spontaneous four days at producer Buddy Miller's home studio in Nashville. "I thought it would be good to have [the album] sound fairly garage, if you like – slightly trashed out. I think it is, in a good way," Thompson tells Rolling Stone. "[It's] the opposite of smooth."
Here, you can check out "Good Things Happen to Bad People," a track the singer says is "pretty representative" of the album's amped-up electric gems. "It's a jealousy song," Thompson explains of the propulsive, dreamy rocker. "It's not that far removed from some of the great old blues songs that cover the same area. I think I was thinking of those in some ways when I wrote it. It's fiction; it's not based on anything personal. I hardly have a jealous bone in my body... my wife is glaring at me as I say that."
Electric proves a logical next step from Thompson's Grammy-nominated 2010 effort, Dream Attic, a record of then-new material that was cut live on the road. The singer says that's due to the rapid-fire, in-the-moment informal approach to recording at Miller's house and the producer's relaxed style.
"It was a very organic process, a very unselfconscious process, and I think that's a kind of halfway house between the last record and a real recording studio," he says. He adds of Miller, "He's very non-egotistical. He likes to make everybody comfortable; he likes to fill in whatever role is required in the studio."
Taking advantage of Nashville's resources, Thompson and Miller tapped Music City mainstays like Alison Krauss and fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan to appear on Electric. Krauss lends vocals to the meditative, acoustic duet "The Snow Goose," the album's penultimate track. Duncan also made an impression; Thompson raves of him, "He's just an amazing musician. I'm not surprised that he sort of hangs out and does stuff with Yo-Yo Ma and people... What amazes me is how in tune he is."
Next spring, Thompson will appear as part of a package tour with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Despite his standing as the bill's lone Englishman, the singer shouldn't have any trouble fitting in; in September, the Americana Association bestowed Thompson with its Lifetime Achievement Songwriting Award. "I was surprised, because I don't think of myself as Americana," Thompson says, "but then, I think Americana is more about roots music rather than American music. So I was quite honored that they would think of me, especially because I'm a foreigner."
Instead, Thompson muses that he may call his work "Anglocana." "It's sort of a parallel style," he jokes.