Sunday, 10 August 2014

Loudon Wainwright - Haven't Got The Blues (Yet) review and more

26th album from US songwriting colossus is yet another triumph

After close to half a century in the business of writing and releasing original material, and now finding himself at the noble age of 67, it is perhaps quite expected that the recent works of lauded songwriter Loudon Wainwright III have been thoughtfully and eloquently examining the passing of years, and a stare-out contest with mortality in his autumn years. Well if the shtick is good enough for the ageing likes of Dylan et al, then Wainwright can certainly flip the whole manoeuvre and make it all more entertaining and drenched in his trademark poetic pathos and human insight.

Stylistically, Wainwright is thrillingly throwing every damn thing to the wind without a care on this record – we get Blues, Dixieland jazz, raw acoustic laments, country, and then whatever else he fancies; making it a varied and engaging listen from the off.

‘Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet)’ opens with ‘Brand New Dance’s vintage New Orleans rock 'n' roll boogie with some typically witty turns of phrase concerning the plights of advancing years and the joys of elderly seating rights on public transport. The gentle jazz standard setting of ‘I’ll be Killing You This Christmas’ pokes heartfelt and barbed jabs at the dumb NRA and US pro-gun lobby by way of immense grace and eloquence, with its quiet considered thoughts of protest, and a clever sly humour that will no doubt be totally lost on its targets.

Elsewhere the excellent title-track, with its study of varying degrees of mental anguish, is typical in its Wainwright humour/pathos cocktail (“I haven’t got the blues yet but I am somewhat depressed…I own several pairs of shoes should I choose to get dressed”). He is still refreshingly different, clever and original. His characterisation of the worldy street-smart poetic smart-arse continues to suit him perfectly. He is lyrically honest and eloquent about his personal failings and weaknesses, and Wainwright’s writing continues to be deadly sharp; full of wit and humour, wonderfully expressed pain and colourful experience to put younger songwriters to shame. At this stage of his career there’s no reason why Wainwright should be turning out material of such strength and precision, but ‘Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet)’ is an excellent album of weighty material that stands up to, or even betters, many of his lauded ‘70s or ‘80s work on every level. A talent and an album to treasure.

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