"Older Than My Old Man Now," Loudon Wainwright III (2nd Story Sound)
Loudon Wainwright III is 65 years old — a year later than his own father was when he died in 1988. Maybe that sparked an emotional crisis in Wainwright III or maybe just a new burst of creativity. For followers of Wainwright's brutally honest and devilishly clever songwriting it's a bounty.
On his new album, "Older Than My Old Man Now," Wainwright muses on death, family, age and nostalgia and provides laughs, chills and recalls former thrills in the bargain. It's also a family reunion and appreciation. The title cut "The Here & The Now" traces Wainwright's life and career ("In the '70s I made it big/Skunk time, fame & wealth, you dig?/I took a wife; we had some kids/Screwed that up and went on the skids ...") and includes children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Lexie Kelly Wainwright, former wife Suzzy Roche and current wife Ritamarie Kelly on background vocals.
He includes recitations of his father's writings (Wainwright Jr. was a columnist and senior editor for Life magazine) and includes the one writing collaboration ("Over the Hill") with his former wife Kate McGarrigle, who died in 2010.
On "The Days That We Die" Wainwright's father gets the first word lamenting (by way of his son's recitation) the desire to forge a new relationship with his children, and Wainwright follows with a thoughtful song about familial battles giving son Rufus the best line: "Each victory should be good news/But when I have to win, you're the one that I lose."
Friends check in for duets and guest spots, including Chris Smither, Dame Edna Everage, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Chaim Tannenbaum and jazz guitar great John Scofield, but Wainwright and producer Dick Connette make sure the focus stays on the songs.
Wainwright is best known for his humor and there's plenty of it here. "My Meds" takes account of every pill Wainwright is being prescribed and at least one he isn't ("... Klonopin's a controlled substance, so I bum 'em from my wife/If the side effects don't kill me, all my meds might save my life ...") and he sings a duet with Dame Edna on "I Remember Sex" ("I remember sex -- I started on my own/When you and I stopped having it, I tried it on the phone...").
"In C" begins as a novelty but turns into one of his best and deepest songs in years.
Wainwright's music typically cuts close to the bone. For the sake of the song, he isn't afraid to sometimes reveal himself as a cad. But it's human flaws more than heroics that we can all relate to. As this guy gets old there's not a physical ache or heartbreak or resentment that doesn't ring true — now or later.
Wainwright's mistakes, successes and revelations could be anyone's. But not just anyone can make them into something you want to hear over and over.
"The Legendary Demos," Carole King (Hear Music)
Long before she became a platinum-selling solo artist with her 1971 album "Tapestry," Carole King had written some of the best-known and most-beloved songs of the rock era. "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" (a hit for Aretha Franklin), "Crying in the Rain" (Everly Brothers), "Chains" (The Beatles, The Cookies), "One Fine Day" (The Chiffons), "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (The Monkees), "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (The Shirelles) are only a few out of vast catalog.
"The Legendary Demos" presents King's songs when they had just been born — recordings meant to be presented to other artists or working versions for her own future recordings. Several of the songs included here are well-known from King's own albums — "Tapestry," "Way Over Yonder," "Natural Woman," among them. Yet, hearing "It's Too Late" (one of her own biggest hits) performed so free and casually is a treat. The real prize, though, is hearing King perform the songs known by other artists. King's own measured take on "Pleasant Valley Sunday" may not replace the Monkees' hit version, but it's fun to compare with the revved up take that came later. And, hearing King sing "Take Good Care of My Baby" (a hit for Bobby Vee) with just piano and tailoring for a male singer is fun.
And while she's often performed "You've Got a Friend" (best known from James Taylor's hit version), hearing this first recorded version is like eavesdropping on the first completed take on a masterpiece.
Many of King's songs (especially those written with one-time husband Gerry Goffin) were demoed by other artists, so there are no recordings by the songs' writers. In fact, some of those demos became hits. Still, this set just makes you want to hear more.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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