BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Loudon Wainwright: Strange Weirdos (Universal)

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Loudon Wainwright III: Grey in LA
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008:  Loudon Wainwright: Strange Weirdos (Universal)

Longtime cynic, straight-shooter and occasionally misanthropic singer-songwriter Wainwright shows no sign of losing his touch even though he is now in his 60s.

His subjects will always provide plenty of material: they are life in general, himself, his family, and sometimes astute socio-political observation.

He is a sensitive singer-songwriter -- if that also means being sensitive to every dyspeptic, angry, unworthy emotion. He documents them all with rare courage.

This album however comes from another place: he was commission to write songs for the Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up and so -- with Joe Henry (see Best of Elsewhere 2007), input from friends like Richard Thompson, and a pretty open chequebook -- he wrote and recorded dozens of songs, only a few of which (some in instrumental form) made the final cut.

But these songs were too good to let go and so this album, subtitled "Music from and inspired by the film Knocked Up".

So here are gorgeously melodic and observational images of LA (Valley Morning, Grey in LA) a typically downbeat Lullaby (which opens "Shut up and go to bed . . ."), a swipe at reluctantly aging baby boomers such as himself (Doin' the Math), a cheerfully upbeat take on Peter Blegvad's Daughter, Henry's haunting consideration of the fragility of life and love in You Can't Fail Me Now, and much more.

From spare arrangements through to upbeat rockers pierced by Thompson's mercurial guitar and some barrelhouse piano, these 14 songs are as musically diverse as they are in their subjects, although the overall theme is families, parenthood, children and so on.

In his long career this Wainwright -- father of Rufus and Martha among others -- has rarely put a foot wrong, and he shows no sign of doing that now. Another disarming and charming outing, with the usual darkness in the margins.

 

There is an interview with Loudon Wainwright about this album under Absolute Elsewhere here 

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