Richard Thompson Credit: courtesy the artist

Fifty years have passed since Fairport Convention released their self-titled first album, a charmingly eclectic mishmosh of earnest pop tunes and American singer-songwriter covers enlivened by an astonishingly dexterous teenage guitarist named Richard Thompson. Over the next few years, Fairport evolved into the flagship band of English folk rock, and their guitarist forged his disparate influences—first-generation rock ‘n’ roll, Scottish bagpipe tunes, modal improvisations pioneered by John Coltrane—into an instantly recognizable instrumental voice. After leaving Fairport in 1971, he recorded six albums with his wife, singer Linda Thompson, over the next decade, which established him as a nonpareil songwriter equally at home with black humor and spiritually infused romantic longing. Since splitting with Linda in 1983, Thompson has turned his bottomless bag of great songs, astounding licks, and dry, sidesplitting repartee into one of the most reliable live shows in rock ‘n’ roll. The protagonists of the songs on September’s 13 Rivers (New West) are driven by a sense that their clocks are running out, while they’re bluffing their way through personal doubt and dysfunctional relationships. But Thompson’s fiery playing and the slickly assertive backing from his long-standing Electric Trio turn bummers into defiantly rollicking blowouts.   v