Like some neo-folky version of the Von Trapps, the Wainwright dynasty are everywhere...
Mick Fitzsimmons 2004
Like some neo-folky version of the Von Trapps, the Wainwright dynasty are everywhere at the moment. Young Rufus populates the style mags, sister Martha has just released her solo debut and mother Kate McGarrigle is back with Auntie Anna, singing Quebecois folk songs.
But, literally and metaphorically, Loudon's still the daddy, and his 21st album finds him on typically acerbic and wittily literate form. Throughout, he's ably abetted by a crack team of session musicians, including ace jazzer Bill Frisell on guitar and Jim Keltner on drums. For the most part, the backing is understated, tastefully fleshing out Wainwright's minimalist acoustics, Frisell's guitar chiming like a bell in all the right places.
I'm pleased to report that Wainwright's songwriting is on fine form, whether it's a wry look at fandom ("My Biggest Fan") or the sideways look at relationships in "It Had To Be Her". Would any other writer, for instance, describe love as a lesion, as Loudon does on the latter?
Greg Leisz's swooning steel guitar enhances "No Sure Way", one of the most affecting responses to 9/11 yet written as Wainwright recasts the New York subway as the classical underworld, his train journeying through the closed down stations around the World Trade Centre. As ever with Wainwright, the song is telling in its detail, the East River reconfigured as the Styx.
But the finest moment comes on the title track, in which Wainwright imagines Los Angeles coming under attack from the air, smart bombs raining down on his newly adopted hometown as scared Los Angelinos scurry for shelter through the garbage cans and Miracle Mile disintegrates beneath the onslaught. It's a startling transposition of the horrors of Falluja to mainland USA, and a blackly comic highlight from one of America's finest songwriters.