100 for 2000 – #98. Loudon Wainwright III – High Wide & Handsome, The Charlie Poole Project

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2009 – #8. Loudon Wainwright III – High Wide And Handsome, The Charlie Poole Project
(Proper)

Funny what a few weeks can do. At the end of 2009, Loudon Wainwright III’s double album High Wide And Handsome was something I liked but barely had time to get to know. After a string of events, I gave it some time and I’m in love. Barely 8 weeks into the new year and I’m already rewriting history.

Some fact. This album is a tribute to Charlie Poole, and old timey rambler who you can find on the Harry Smith Anthology. As well as well known Poole songs, Wainwright wrote a couple of songs in his honour, and then a couple that taps into his spirit.

What’s great about this record though, is that you don’t have to know anything about Charlie Poole. It’s a proper modern Americana album, with eternal themes of good times, hard liquor, sentimentality and sadness. And at 30 songs, it never sounds samey – going from Brill Building pop to Gospel, bluegrass, honky tonk and quite a few other stops in between.

Terry Gross’s awesome radio program, Fresh Air (on NPR) did a long feature on this album. It was a great interview, which is what made me go out and pick this record up. More surprisingly, it topped Fresh Air’s best albums of the year list (along with, amazingly, Taylor Swift). Finally, the sad passing of Kate McGarrigle spurred me on yet again to give this album a few spins.

So yeah – if you like old timey stuff, you’ll like this. Wainwright‘s cheeky wit is still there. But it’s a bit more of a collaboration. And it’s sometimes a little odd how stright he plays it in some songs. But hey, he’s getting old and aging gracefully.

Here’s some songs I love, if you feel like checking them out. Ramblin’ Blues, Old and Only In the Way, The Man In the Moon, I’m the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World. Then there’s the title track, written affectionately for Poole, but can apply to Wainwright as well. Both men lived life to the fullest.

So Wainwright won a Grammy for this old album. And he’s sounding really great on here. Maybe it’s a new chapter for him. I hope so.

No videos sadly, but this is a little trailer about the album, with some great insight.

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