Archive for the ‘Wainwright Dynasty’ Category

High Wide & Handsome – New Loudon Wainwright III album on August 18

August 9th, 2009 by Reinder

Just one year after "Recovery", Loudon Wainwright III has another album in the pipeline, and it's another project-oriented record, based on the life and career of old-time North Carolina banjo picker Charlie Poole. It's called High Wide & Handsome and there's some video documenting the project and highlighting the songs on the project's website. As you can see, he's brought the whole family in - while I don't like everything that all of them have done, there's no denying that his ex-wife and offspring are a fantastic talent pool.

This is one record I'm gonna snap up unheard when it comes out. Loudon has been on a very strong streak in the past four or five years, and from what I hear in the video's, this record, too, should be a goody.

Some neat music stuff I found on Youtube

March 6th, 2009 by Reinder

Loudon Wainwright III singing White Winos on a 2004 Dutch documentary in the Het Uur van de Wolf series.

I watched this when it was broadcast. Then, as now, I loved the fact that the producers cared enough to have the song subtitled. When I showed the clip to DFG, she thought LWIII's head movements and slurred speech were the result of him having had a little too much too drink before the interview, but as far as I can tell, that's just how he is.

LWIII gets misrepresented as a jokey songwriter a lot, especially by journalists who want to talk up his (significantly less talented) offspring at his expense. In his best songs, the humour is in the service of something deeper, and occasionally disturbing.

That said, the jokey, clownish part of him is there, and here's a clip of him on the BBC's Jasper Carrot show in the 1980s - the trousers are not part of the clown act as people really dressed like that at the time - singing I Don't Think Your Wife Likes Me and hamming it up for the camera. more, singing Cardboard Boxes on Wogan, at around the same time.

British television in those days was a goldmine! Below are three clips from BBC Pebble Mill ca. 1982, featuring Simon Nicol and Dave Swarbrick from Fairport Convention playing as a duo. I love Swarb's violin style, but what stands out is how good Simon Nicol could sound as a guitarist and a vocalist. His voice is limited in power and range and tends to drown out in a larger band, but in the first one of these duo performances it sounds impassioned, raw and much more powerful. And of course, the only reason he never got much credit as a guitarist is that he spent years performing with Richard Thompson next to him.
Time to Ring Some Changes:

The Hen's March Through the Midden/The Four-Poster Bed - two instrumentals that Swarb had played since the 1960s. Not quite as good as the recording he did with Martin Carthy, but fun nonetheless.

The least of the three clips, but still worth a look if you made it this far: Three Drunken Maidens - cheesy but fun, both in content and presentation. Swarb's annoying habit of humming along to his playing is unfortunately very much in evidence.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed Swarb's then latest album Swarbrick Plays Swarbrick and mentioned his health troubles. Not long later, he had a lung transplant and within a few months he was back on stage. Below is a clip (with unfortunately poor sound quality) representing what he sounds like today, accompanied by guitarists Kevin Dempsey and Martin Allcock, another much-underrated guitarist. Swarb looks rough (but not as rough as before the transplant) but his playing is as energetic as ever.

Your musical reading for today

July 9th, 2007 by Reinder

Vanity Fair has a lovely eight-page article called Songs in the Key of Lacerating on the sprawling and very talented Wainwright/McGarricle clan. Read it. (Via)

Singer-Songwriter roundup

November 11th, 2004 by Reinder

Rented from the public library (because I can't afford to buy as many CDs right now as I've done in the past few months):

Genius by Warren Zevon. I'm a bit disappointed by this one, to be honest. Zevon has an excellent reputation as a songwriter, but on the basis of this nearly career-spanning retrospective, I don't think he lived up to it. There are some good songs on there, especially 1988's "Boom Boom Mancini" with its bluesy touches, 1991's carnivalesque "Mr. Bad Example" and 1978's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" but like the Bruce Cockburn retrospective I rented a year or so ago, many of the songs are marred by sugary arrangements and the limitations of Zevon's voice. I'll explore his work a little further by listening to the albums that the best songs on this record came from but I don't expect to discover another artist of Richard Thompson's caliber.
Little Ship by Loudon Wainwright III. I'm a huge Loudon fan already so I was bound to like it. It's not his best: both the album's predecessor Grown man and the recent Last Man on Earth are stronger overall. The songs repeat themes Wainwright has visited time and again without adding much in the way of new ideas, and the arrangements are at times a little too clever for their own good. Indeed the two songs from Little Ship that made it to the live album So Damn Happy, "So Damn Happy" and "Primrose Hill", sound much better in the stripped-down, guitar-and-vocal version offered there. Nevertheless, Little Ship is well-crafted, pleasing to the ear and recommended for anyone who likes Wainwright's other stuff. And "What Are Families For" is a great, great song.

I buy far too many CDs!

September 30th, 2004 by Reinder

My one vice, the one bad habit that will one day be the ruin of me, is buying much much more music than I can afford. One day, I'll go too far, and end up homeless, or crushed under the weight of a falling cupboard full of CDs... or worse, I could end up a musicblogger. I've noticed that quite a few people who write about music in weblogs are desperately unhappy, and although music can help people remain sane, writing about it often allows writers to wallow in whatever their problem was in the first place.

For now, though, I can buy CDs and vinyl and pay for them out of my tax refund, which was a big'un this year. It's irresponsible, but it won't actually bankrupt me... yet.

I have some time to spare right now, so here and in the next few posts will be a roundup of stuff I bought in the past couple of months weeks.

Today, I got Want One by Rufus Wainwright, now marked down at the record store. Rufus is the son of Loudon Wainwright III, one of my favorite singer/songwriters.While he does have some of his dad's melodic sensibility, the music on Want One sounds more like a cross between Muse and Jellyfish, with traces of Roy Harper. The lyrics are less anecdotal and poignant than dad's, and more existential. Not sure if I like the lyrics, and his voice can grate a bit after a while, but the tunes are strong and the big production is just gorgeous. The layered instrumental work keeps it interesting. One to play a few more times before I can tell if it has any staying power. Update: after three listenings, I can say that the answer is no. Rufus's vocal mannerisms annoy me and the orchestrations get in the way of the songs.

I also got Smoke and Strong Whiskey by Christy Moore. Moore is the older brother of singer-songwriter Luka Bloom, and the similarity is clear in his voice and songwriting approach. I was very much immersed in coloring Friday's comic while I listened to this for the first time, so I can't say too much about it, other than that it was rockier than I expected it to be. It's very much an Irish record, but a folk-rock one instead of the folk that I expected. Soft folk-rock, mind. It has electric guitars and hammond organs, but doesn't get very loud, mostly because Moore's voice is very quiet. Smoke and Strong Whiskey is pleasant enough, but nothing stuck out. There's a cover of the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" on the album, but while it's better played than the original, it lacks the original's energy and the cattiness that you got from the duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl. Moore's own songwriting is pretty good though, and I'll probably end up loving it when I've heard the record more often. Update: on repeated listening, I like about half the songs. "Scapegoats" is a particularly good one. It's odd to think that 14 years on, there is once again a need for songs like that.


Two political songs, for your enjoyment

May 21st, 2004 by Reinder

FCC Song all fucks by Eric Idle.
President's Day by Loudon Wainwright III.

I saw Loudon in concert in Groningen yesterday, and the response then was pretty much the same as at the in-store performance at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California where this recording was made.

Commentary by Loudon:

Due to its particular timeliness with regard to our nation's impending electoral decision in November, I have made the rather unusual (for me) decision to cast it into the ether of cyberspace, there to be had gratis(*), absolutely free of charge for citizens armed with an MP3 player and a taste for broadside material. It is my sincere hope that those of you who like the song and approve of my plan will assist me in spreading the word about "Presidents' Day" in order to inform and/or inflame any swing voters out there who remain at all ambivalent or apathetic about the current administration and its reckless, dreadful policies.

(*) Indeed, Loudon has made his opinion about MP3 downloading known in the song "Something for Nothing", off the So Damn Happy album he is currently promoting. If you can still see him on his tour, don't miss him.