WHO IS HE?
Younger listeners might most easily recognize 67-year-old Loudon Wainwright III as the father of musical artists Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. Older fans may know him as the scion of a privileged family from Westchester County, New York. (Wainwright's dad was a celebrated columnist and editor for Life magazine.) But he also happens to be among the most interesting of the confessional singer-songwriters to emerge from the folk-pop flood of the storied "Me Decade" (aka the 1970s), in part because of his self-effacing and pointed wit.
The first of his 22 albums was released in 1970, and the most recent was issued two years ago (see below). Thrice nominated for Grammy Awards, he won the 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for High, Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, a tribute to the music of 1920s-era singer and banjo player Poole. Also a busy actor, Wainwright has appeared on TV (M*A*S*H, Parks & Recreation and Person of Interest) and in movies such as Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Aviator, Big Fish, 28 Days and Elizabethtown.
BUY THIS ALBUM
For an introduction to Wainwright's career, you can't go wrong with the 2011 retrospective 40 Odd Years. A year later, however, he released the brilliant Older Than My Old Man Now, an inspired, extended rumination on the nature of families, aging and dying. On opening track "The Here & Now," Wainwright performs with all four of his children, second wife Suzzy Roche and current wife Ritamarie Kelly. The album also features "Over the Hill," a song he co-wrote with his first wife, the late Kate McGarrigle. It's easy to like the slightly bawdy "I Remember Sex" (with its guest appearance by Dame Edna Everage), but more affecting is "In C," and its poignant reflection that "If families didn't break apart/ I suppose there'd be no need for art."
Wainwright's only top 20 hit was the 1972 novelty "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)," perhaps the finest neo-bluegrass-style paean to roadkill ever penned. He immortalized his first child's breast-feeding habits in "Rufus is a Tit Man" (from the 1975 live album Unrequited), which is admirable if only for the fact it probably makes the grown-up son cringe. Maybe his definitive masterpiece is "Hard Day on the Planet" (from More Love Songs in 1986), which combines social commentary and humor.
Loudon Wainwright III plays at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 9, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets are $18 to $44 in advance and $2 more the day of the show.