Thursday, December 19 Also with Robin Holcomb, Joel Tepp, Wayne Horvitz, Darren Loucas, and other local legends. The Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave. S., 906-9920, theroyalroomseattle.com. 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. $20.
Since his 1972 solo release, Henry the Human Fly, Richard Thompson has sustained one of the most prolific and storied careers in popular music. He was a leading member of the British folk movement through his work with Fairport Convention, and I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, his 1974 collaboration with his former wife and singing partner Linda, though overlooked by the press at the time, was later included in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Age hasn’t slowed Thompson, either; just this year his 20th studio release, Electric, garnered some of the best reviews of his long career.
Thompson (who was recently in town performing with Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris) is an artist of huge range. Indeed, “A Heart Needs a Home,” the tender folk ballad he recorded with Linda on their 1975 album Hokey Pokey, is the inspiration for this benefit for Solid Ground, a Seattle nonprofit that works to end poverty and homelessness. So the decision to draw from Thompson’s vast back catalog of hits, B-sides, and deep cuts should provide each performer a lot of room to work with, considering who’s tapped to play.
Tonight’s lineup reads like a who’s-who of Seattle’s musical upper crust, with inimitable guitarist Bill Frisell leading the pack. A fixture on the Seattle music scene since the late ’80s, his fluid take on jazz has positioned him as one of the genre’s most heralded musicians for 30 years. If anyone within the city limits is able to approximate Thompson’s own feel for a fretboard, it would be Frisell. A recent addition to the UW faculty, he’ll join fellow professor Luke Bergman tonight—whose work with a handful of local bands (Heatwarmer, Thousands, Poor Moon) ranges from pop and folk to experimental free jazz. The pairing will likely yield excellent interpretations. With his string-based Americana repertoire, Eli West will take up the folk torch, and longtime Seattle singer/songwriter Jim Page will surely keep things political.
With so many different musicians, styles, and tastes colliding, it will be vastly interesting to see what sort of magic they’re able to conjure. Even considering the majority of Royal Room shows are free, $20 for tonight’s bill, with proceeds going to a good cause, ensures absolutely zero buyer’s remorse.