Sunday, 18 July 2010

Songs for the New Depression

Loudon Wainwright III: 10 Songs for the New Depression(Proper)

Robin Denselow
Thursday 15 July 2010 23.16

It's been 40 years since he recorded his first album, and he's now probably less well known than his children Rufus and Martha, but Loudon Wainwright is still on impressive form. His last album, a tribute to the great country singer and banjo player Charlie Poole, was an ambitious affair that featured more than 20 musicians and singers, but this is a pared-down, DIY set, in keeping with the mood of the new songs. It was recorded in the studio but Wainwright is backed only by his own guitar and ukulele (with a few spooky effects added in for Halloween 2009), and he sounds as easy-going and spontaneous as he does on stage. Wainwright specialises in highly personal, bittersweet lyrics, and that's still his style on this quirky concept set that includes a couple of reworked songs from the 1930s depression. The best track, House, is a finely constructed song about economics and relationships that tells the story of a couple who plan to get divorced but stay together because they can't sell their house, "so maybe it's a good thing". Elsewhere, he cheerfully matches bleak lyrics against upbeat melodies, as on the opening Times Is Hard, where the man once compared to Dylan announces "you folks need some cheering up ... it ain't me, babe". This is Wainwright at his best.

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