Loudon Wainwright III
Here Come the Choppers!
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2005, Volume 12, #4
Written by John Metzger
Throughout his career, Loudon Wainwright III has taken a lot of flak from folks for being too ridiculous, too serious, too political, and too apolitical. Although itís certainly true that his albums sometimes have been less than perfect affairs, he has managed to craft an extraordinary body of work that utilizes the trials and tribulations of his own experiences to shed light upon the universal human condition, thereby capturing its essence. However, given the fact that his self-titled debut was issued 35 years ago, itís doubtful that at this late date, Wainwright ever will gain the respect and recognition as a songwriter that he so rightfully deserves. Nevertheless, he continues to follow his muse wherever it may lead. Although it took the death of his mother as well as the demise of a romantic entanglement for his gift at relaying the bittersweet nature of life to return with such sweeping, cohesive fashion as it did on his sterling set from 2001: Last Man on Earth.
On his latest album Here Come the Choppers!, Wainwright features a hodgepodge of material that shifts from the somber, post-9/11 reflection of No Sure Way to the familial pondering that grounds Half Fist to the biting paranoia of the title track. Sure, it meets his critics paradoxical comments directly by offering a little something for everyone, but the end result is that the outing sounds more like a collection of disparate songs than the sort of thematically-linked narrative that has marked his finest efforts. Even the tunes on Social Studies, his compilation of recordings for public radio, were bound together more tightly than this. Nevertheless, itís nearly impossible not to be moved by Wainwrightís multi-faceted musings, which so effortlessly tug at oneís emotions and frequently pull them in opposing directions. The devastation of When You Leave is balanced by Nannyís playfully fond remembrance of his grandmother, and the silliness of My Biggest Fan is countered by the inherent sorrow of No Sure Way. Supported by a band that includes drummer Jim Keltner, bass player David Piltch, and guitarists Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, Wainwright struts through the groovy blues of Had to Be Her, adorns Godís Country with a bluegrass-tinged lilt, and gets funky on Make Your Mother Mad. Although his lyrics eventually cut through the surrounding clatter, itís on more restrained selections that they hit the hardest.
Here Come the Choppers! is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box