Album: Loudon Wainwright III, 10 Songs for the New Depression (Proper)
Wainwright goes back to his roots. That's all folk!
Sunday 18 July 2010
At a time when anyone playing Coldplay-esque songs on acoustic guitars is labelled "nu folk", it's worth reminding ourselves of the purpose of the genre.
And who better to do this than the original "new Bob Dylan" – although these days Loudon Wainwright III sounds more like the old Bob Dylan than the new Bob Dylan does. Try to keep up.
The problem, of course, is that as soon as you start bandying about phrases such as "the purpose of folk", you run the risk of sounding like that bloke who called Dylan "Judas" for daring to push the envelope. Point is, the times have now a'changed to such a degree that it's nice to hear one of the originals of the 1960s folk scene get back to the idea of making an album that simply and effectively addresses the issues of the day.
10 Songs for the New Depression clocks in at around 30 minutes. In that short space of time (he has never needed more than a couple of minutes to make his point: see "Tonya's Twirls" for proof), Wainwright can make you laugh, nod in agreement, shake your fist in despair and want to sing along to a set of songs as focused as last year's Charlie Poole Project, although clearly written at pace.
"What in God's name is going on?/ All I can do is play this song" he sings on opener "Times is Hard", setting the tone for an album that offers no answers, only songs.
Accompanying himself on guitar, banjo or ukulele, that focus of subject matter finds Wainwright in better lyrical form than he has been in for some time. The songs are funny and sad because they are true. And if anyone is left in any doubt, the sleevenotes add a personal touch. The accompanying text to "House" – about a couple forced to stay together because they can't sell their home – for instance, sees Wainwright admitting he's "remained relatively unscathed by the New Depression though I do own a home in Southern California that I am unable to sell at present". The state of his current marriage he neglects to mention.
Obama, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Alan Greenspan all get mentions and, even if nothing else about folk music grabs you, you have to admire LWIII's honesty and humour throughout.
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