Album Review

Loudon Wainwright III - Here Come The Choppers!

Loudon Wainwright III - Here Come The Choppers!

Though it's packaged to look like a set of ripped-from-the-headlines topical songs, this is Loudon Wainwright's most personal album in years. He continues to hone his eye for detail, directed both out at the world around him and inward at his own foibles and fears. Wainwright has had a well-documented (in his own songs) history of needing to be the center of attention within his often contentious family realm. With a son and a daughter both now standing in spotlights which cast shadows across dad, he's doing what he does best: writing songs that rise to the occasion, which puts him right back where he's happiest, at center stage. He's also never been in finer company, surrounded here by Bill Frisell, Jim Keltner, Greg Leisz and David Piltch. Keltner's drumming, even on a ballad such as "When You Leave", is such that you could listen just to him, from beginning to end, and be satisfied. Frisell's work on this and Vic Chesnutt's latest indicate he's delighted to be finding new roles for himself; he tosses off supporting lines and solos with loopy abandon. The album is anchored by Wainwright's explorations of family ties, both past and current. This makes it all the more baffling that the cover bears the name of a song that's more sociopolitical than personal. Sonically it's a centerpiece; the band is at full throttle, and Wainwright's singing is heartfelt and dramatic. But the rewards throughout the disc as a whole are less brightly colored and more subtle -- much like the Michael Wilson photos throughout the booklet. They captured the ephemeral and the fleeting, and so did Loudon.