x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Loudon Wainwright III 's Older Than My Old Man Now is a family affair

The choice tunes and acute wordplay are up to the job.

Loudon Wainwright III
Older Than My Old Man Now
(Proper Records)
****

The North Carolina-born songsmith and actor Loudon Wainwright III has grown used to his kids Rufus and Martha stealing the limelight. The Wainwright dynasty is nothing if not competitive, though, and dad – now 65 and still in fine voice – makes a splendid return here.

Though the album's inner-sleeve shot of Wainwright at the grave of his father (the Life magazine editor Loudon Wainwright II) hardly promises an easy listen, our host's candid grapple with ageing and mortality packs almost as much humour as poignancy.

While the violin-imbued closer Something's Out to Get Me is as quietly chilling as Nick Drake's River Man, it's offset by songs such as I Remember Sex, a pleasingly daft duet with Dame Edna Everage, aka the comedian Barry Humphries.

As Wainwright attempts to put his house in order, various family members guest on the album or are remembered. Rufus, Martha, and their stepsister Lucy Wainwright-Roche are among those singing backing vocals on the breezy potted history of Loudon's life that is The Here & the Now; Over the Hill revisits the only song that Loudon and his late first wife Kate McGarrigle wrote together, and the title track includes a reading of prose by the aforementioned Loudon II as he meditates on the loss of his father, Loudon Wainwright I.

The shifts of mood and perspective and switches from jazz to folk to country – there are many threads to pull together here, but Wainwright III's choice tunes and acute wordplay are up to the job. "If families didn't break apart / I suppose there'd be no need for art", he sings tellingly on the piano ballad In C.