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SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH…Unsung Heroes: Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Jesse Winchester


Elvis Costello shares a moment with Richard Thompson.

In addition to using the platform of SPECTACLE as a way to champion some of his favorite young musicians, Elvis Costello has also turned the show’s spotlight to several underappreciated veteran artists. This season, a trio of singer-songwriters whose names might not be familiar to all viewers received some well-deserved attention.

Richard Thompson has been revered for both his writing and his extraordinary guitar playing for more than four decades. He came to prominence in the late 1960s as a member of the trailblazing Fairport Convention, a band known for merging traditional British folk song with rock energy. Since then, Thompson released several widely acclaimed albums with his ex-wife, Linda (1982′s Shoot Out the Lights was number nine on Rolling Stone’s list of “Best Albums of the 1980s”), and a long list of solo works. He has been honored with an Ivor Novello Award and a BBC Radio lifetime achievement award for his songwriting, and his compositions have been covered by artists from R.E.M. to Del McCoury, from the Blind Boys of Alabama to Bonnie Raitt.

Born in 1949, the same year as Thompson, Nick Lowe started out in England’s rootsy pub-rock scene as a member of Brinsley Schwarz and, alongside Dave Edmunds, in the phenomenal Rockpile. He was hired as an in-house producer for the pioneering punk label Stiff Records (and nicknamed “Basher’” for his unfussy approach), and then produced Elvis Costello’s first five albums. Lowe’s best-known song is probably “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”—remember, SPECTACLE fans, Elvis didn’t write it—but he had some hits of his own with “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” and “Cruel to be Kind.” Recently, Lowe has been enjoying something of a renaissance with a more mature, country-inflected sound, notably on the 2007 At My Age album.

Jesse Winchester was born in Louisiana and raised in Memphis, but is often thought of as a Canadian artist, because he moved to Montreal to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Since he wasn’t allowed to tour in the U.S. until draft resisters were granted amnesty in 1977, he is better known as a songwriter than as a performer; Winchester’s songs have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, and Reba McIntire. But he began his own recording career as far back as 1970 with the help of Robbie Robertson, and has released ten albums, including the recent Love Filling Station.