Loudon Wainwright III Keeps On Rolling, At The Talkhouse July 2
Loudon Wainwright III, one of America’s treasures, one of our greatest songwriters and performers, has released a new CD. He performed several songs from it on July 2, 2005 in Amagansett at Stephan Talkhouse.
Loudon Wainwright III is a character. Funny, brilliant, not beyond exposing his foils to an audience. His new CD entitled “Here Come The Choppers” is out now, and has, among others, Bill Frisell on guitar. Overall, another intelligent, revealing repertoire about “God’s Country,” “My Biggest Fan [is a 400 pound man],” “Here Come The Choppers” to LA and thereabouts, a “location” song, “Nanny,” his grandfather, Loudon the First’s, “Half Fist” and “Hank and Fred” about Montgomery, Alabama, and who comes from there, and the Hank Williams [Senior] Museum, and the Fred, being Mr. Rogers, who had just died the day Loudon III visited the Hank Williams museum. Who else would put those two together in a song??
Spending an evening with one of our nation’s greatest musical/lyrical geniuses is always fun and enlightening. He tried to sing “Westchester County” a few times, in fact, but “Alzheimer’s Onstage,” it was, he remarked. That melody, he just could not remember it. And it had occurred last time he had performed. But we forgave him as he went on to sing the classic “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” instead.
The tragic tune about John Lennon and his death was recounted by request as Loudon sang “Not John,” about Lennon’s killer, John Chapman, “having a Japanese wife too,” among other things.
He started the night with the first song on the new CD,
“My Biggest Fan” the 400 pound man who knows all of his songs, and always manages to squeeze in, and does not mind if he has to stand. A song about being a performer, a “star,” if I might use the word, and what one has to go through. Accepting a tape from a fan, not talking too long with adoring fans, the big fan the symbol of someone who will do anything to see him as a double entendre.
There are always songs about Loudon’s family. This night he sang about his Nanny who he used to visit in Westerley, Rhode Island. She would have a “G and T” at 3 every day, and watched over him and other family members when they went down to the beach, and the yacht club. Loudon apparently comes from a not-unwealthy family. His father was Loudon Wainwright II, who was a NY Times writer, and is portrayed by his songwritin’ son as a rather formal and perhaps severe big man.
The song “Half Fist” is about the fist that all the male Loudons seem to have, from #1 to #3. #1 could handle a shotgun, died at 43, a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, a sailor. Loudon never got to know much about him until later years led him to finally compose this tune.
“Being A Dad” is one of my favorites. He seems to sing it almost every time he comes to the Talkhouse. He was not the goody-goodiest Dad. The most humorous parts of the song come when he confesses things like how it’s easy to lie to kids, and he grimaces and dances with his lyrics to demonstrate and highlight and make you laugh about his imperfect parental mores and behavior.
We all are not angels.
But how hard it is to be a Dad is also expressed very poetically. Wish I knew what album or CD that one is on. I love “Dump The Dog, Feed The Garbage” but it is not on that album, which must have come from his domestic daddy days back when.
The first encore tune about living in Brooklyn Heights and taking the subway had his daughter Lucy Roche accompany him with her beautiful Rochean voice. [Ever listen to the Roches, from New Jersey? She sounds like her genetics vocally come from those environs.]
Loudon Wainwright would be one of the only folks to write a song about the “Airport Security Blues,” about having to go through security checks and taking off your shoes and the folly of all this war on terror that we have maximized to keep us all safe, while impugning our liberties. Must be a new one. Not yet on any CD. But making attending such a performance all the more worthwhile.
See this guy whenever you get a chance. And, yeah, try out his new CD.