Loudon Wainwright’s voice is still in sharp and fine fettle. Not only that, but the meaning the words seem to carry is both profound and delightful. A man, in his late sixties, with bitter and joyous memories, and a voice almost piercing gentle holes as it comes out of the speakers. It is indeed a sharp delivery and almost casts a spell upon the listener.
There is the influence of many kinds of music herein, always delivered with genuine hope, sadness and aplomb. Blues is the abiding genre, but there are flourishes of country, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, folk and even world music. It’s a fascinating mixture of emotions within the songs, conveyed to the audience and then subsequently experienced by the listener. For some that would be enough to satisfy a fan of good music. There is even a Christmas song that not only adds to the brilliant existing canon of festive tunes but doesn’t even sound wrong to listen to in July. Of course, listened to at Christmas time the magic would be rather profound. It is besides the point that the tone of the lyrics is negative, it is so real it almost defies belief, and that is where the true wonder of this album lies. It is real, gritty and heartfelt. Most certainly, you cannot write this kind of material without it being informed from years of sinning, loving and learning, evolving.
Two things strike the listener – the clarity of the vocals, which stun all the way through, and the quality of the song writing. For those who go way back with Mr. Wainwright III it can hardly be surprising, but the endless high of this record is a thing to be admired. It’s the kind of record to get an artist new fans, had they not encountered Wainwright before. It would be hard to have never heard of him though, as the father of Rufus and Martha, two especially gifted modern songwriters either side of the big ’40’. It isn’t hard to see based on this why the kids are also so talented. The family is drowning in a sea of sublime song writing and singing. Other members of the family also carry the musical gene.
It’s an album that works in both the background and foreground. It doesn’t necessarily demand the listener’s full attention (though I can only highly recommend it), but it is certainly a well spent 49 minutes of anybody’s time. It’s old, it’s new, it is full of life and wisdom and the gentle pain and glory of the days. A record to befriend anyone that gives it the time of day.
Words: Dominic J Stevenson