Friday, March 8, 2013

Loudon Wainwright III - Album III

Loudon Wainwright III – Album III
Columbia, 1972
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $2
The Wainwright children Rufus and Martha are the cornerstone of my argument about the sons and daughters of famous people having the sort of opportunities normal folks don’t have and somehow their art is less valid. It’s a really silly argument. I think I just wonder whether Rufus and Martha would have become famous had their parents not been notable folk singers. The argument is silly because there’s going to be basic genetics and nature/nurture stuff that’s going to foster musical ability via growing up in a house full of music/with musicians/around musicians. So I mostly just gave up on that argument and have been appreciating Loudon’s kids’ music for years.

So now I’m listening to Loudon for the first time ever and trying to separate him form whats-his-name’s dad on Undeclared. I know Martha Wainwright wrote “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” in his honor, so you know, I didn’t have the highest opinion of the guy going into this record. “Dead Skunk” is a weird song from my childhood. I remember my dad being pretty fond of it and maybe singing it every time we’d catch a whiff of a dead skunk on the Kansas back roads (so many dead skunks). I don’t know if that really happened, it feels right in my head though. Wainwright’s not taking himself seriously but making music that is itself not not serious is one of his most appealing traits. He’s almost a tame forerunner to Ween, who injected their songs with weirdness and humor and somehow managed to rise above the novelty factor.

Wainwright catches you off guard with gorgeously sad folky numbers like “Needless to Say” and “New Paint.” Those songs sandwich the silly, juke-joint inspired “Smokey Joe’s Café.” Needless to say, he does a great job playing with you emotions. This thing is all over the place. There’s a totally goofball jam from the point of view of a bee (“B Side,” which features the play on words “comb sweet comb,” which I thought was pretty hilarious), there’s a drinking song in the absolute most literal sense (aptly titled “Drinking Song”), and then there’s the aforementioned “New Paint” which is full of clever wordplay but at its core is about finding a good woman. The songwriting is remarkably solid, even when it’s being intentionally stupid. And while I mostly bought this as a cheap prospect I didn’t expect that I’d sit around listening to this album literally all day. All day I just dicked around, listened to this album, did the dishes while listening to this album, put off doing other stuff. It’s a good one. 

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