“I’m the Man Who Rode a Mule Around the World”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

“I’m the Man Who Rode a Mule Around the World”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

This is my third “High Wide and Handsome: The Chairlie Poole Project slideshow. This is actually a traditional song that Charlie Poole recorded. It apparently exists in many different versions, my impression is that Loudon took verses from different versions, with the first three of so coming from Charlie’s version. Thus Loudon’s version (written with producer Dick Connette) is kind of a composite of a long ago American classic of traditional music (aka “old-timey” music). It is a sort of a variation on a tall tale, unstuck in time and space, travelling widely through world history although always returning to America. It’s supposed to be humorous, and I’ve tried to highlight the humor in my slideshow (I’m actually kind of proud of the way the film overlays turned out). By the way “rushing the can,” means to go get liquor in a bucket or can–I looked it up. I would hesitate to speculate on the “meaning” of this song, but it sure is a lot of fun.  I hope you think so too.

“Up in NYC”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow about Charlie Poole

“Up in NYC”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow about Charlie Poole

This is the second slideshow I’ve done based on a song from High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2nd Story Sound Records 2009). Where the first, Acres of Diamonds, was a song in Charlie’s vein (actually written by the album’s producer, Dick Connette), this is a song about an episode in Charlie’s life written by Loudon Wainwright III and Dick Connette. As far as it goes, it is pretty accurate.  Charlie’s band–Charlie, Posey Rorer, and Clarence Foust (aka The North Carolina Ramblers)–did go up to New York City from Passaic for an audition with Frank Walker of Columbia records, who was so impressed they cut four sides that very afternoon of Monday, July 27th, 1925. They were paid $25 a man ($75 total), with “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues,” selling 102.000 copies, a siginificant hit for the time. As the song details, Poole was reluctant to return and record more for a label that had paid less than a hundred dollars for recordings that had netted the Columbia more than $40,000 in sales. What the song does not say is that he and the Ramblers did return in 1926 with a better deal and recorded another eighteen tracks for Frank Walker.  The band broke up in an argument over royalties in 1928, but Charlie continued recording successful records with other musicians until the Depression hit, dying before his time at the end of a thirteen week bender in 1931.  {Virtually all of the information above is from the fascinating introductory booklet that comes with the 2 CD set}.

“Acres of Diamonds”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

“Acres of Diamonds”: An Unofficial LW3 Slideshow

I am embarrassed to admit that I just listened to High Wide and Handsome; The Charlie Poole Project (2009) last week. I was really blown away by Loudon’s artistry, and I really ought to be used to it by now. The deep love of many kinds of folk music, the high spirits, and the dead on performances really did make it into a kind of career monument for Loudon (he won a Grammy for it as Best Traditional Folk album in 2009). I have to admit, I went on sort of a High Wide and Handsome binge and did three slideshows. This was the first one, “Acres of Diamonds,” which stood out both for its bluegrass bounce and infectious optimism. The phrase was made famous by motivational speaker Earl Nightingale as well as being the title of a much covered gospel song, but this tune was actually written Dick Connette, who produced the album. The guy with the banjo who is NOT Loudon is Charlie Poole, the high living but short lived country star and sometime bootlegger, Charlie Poole. The other one, is–of course–Loudon, who also appears looking mighty pleased in the last photo. The Bakersfield sign has nothing to do with the song, other than it vaguesly resembles the curve of a rainbow and is my hometown, and the attractive looking couple  who appear near the start of the final third are actually my parents, although I am not sure if the photo is from before or after they moved to Bakerfield. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this old timey style tune about good times in hard times.

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Wine with Dinner”: An Unofficial Holiday Slideshow

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Wine with Dinner”: An Unofficial Holiday Slideshow

“Wine with Dinner,” as the title implies, is a drinking song. Back when I first heard it about 1976, it strucks me as a pro-drinking song, a defiant love letter to grain alcohol in the face physical, social, and psychological bad consequences. I suspect I saw it that way, because that is the way I wanted to see it, I wanted to believe drinking-to-excess was simply a heroically masculine way of thumbing your nose at death, while counting on that old saw about God loving drunks and fools to keep me safe (I’m sure I figured I was a Daily Double).  How you interpreted the song really depended on whether you focused on the verses (which catalogue the negative consequences of alcohol abuse) or on the chorus (which focuses on how drunks are often quite lucky).  While the alcoholic speaker is fairly obviously kidding himself, his arguments are pretty convincing if you’re kidding yourself too.  Although it isn’t included as part of this slideshow, Loudon’s T-Shirt album, where the song first appeared, also includes a reprise of the song at the album’s conclusion that includes an additional verse that rejects other forms of pharmacological abuse in favor John Barleycorn and his relatives, so the let’s-just-keep-on-partying message does get a bit more emphasis in the original context (it was the seventies, after all).  I now see the song as more darkly satirical than celebratory, and that darkness is by and large refected in this slideshow (I don’t claim my interpretation is any way definitive, please make your own, if you so desire).

Loudon Wainwright III’s “I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Loudon Wainwright III’s “I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Loudon has long had an affinity for holiday songs that take slightly unusual perspectives. Family dinners (“Tnanksgiving“), the 1st day of April (“April Fools Day Morn“), and of course throwing out the old christmas tree at year’s end (“Suddenly It’s Christmas“), I was seriously considering the latter song as a possible topic for a slideshow when I ran into this one, again (like “Brand New Dance“) from Loudon’s 2014 studio album, Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet). It takes a rather different approach to the holiday, and is in fact the darkest Christmas song I can think of off hand (I suppose “Granda Got Run Over By a Reindeer” might be sort of in the same ballpark).  Rather unusually for Loudon, it seems to come close to taking a stand on a controversial social issue, albeit an ironic stand. Apparently, at least in the U.S., Christmas day is among the most violent of the year, although less so than New Year’s (the safest day, strangely, is January 5th, presumably everybody is either too pooped from assaulting people on New Year’s, or just too hung over to commit any more crimes). The murders directly referenced in the slideshow are the Lawson Family murders (Germantown, North Carolina, 1929), the Covina Massacre (2009), and, with the stills at the end largely being of people who had the misfortune to be murdered around Christmas (including JonBenet Ramsey, who actually did not die from a gunshot).  A number are from holdiay themed horror films (the Covina Massacre, which included a murderer in a Santa Suit and a home-made flame thrower, was for instance is referenced in the 2012 film, Silent Night, where a number of the stills come from). Most of the other photos are from advertisements or Christmas cards people have posted on the web, and are probably in no way intended the be ironic.  While I admit to a certain curiousity about what comments I’ll get (if any), it’s a curiousity tempered by sadness in that I have pretty good idea about what a number of them will probably be. But hey, it wouldn’t be a family holiday without a few death threats.

 

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Brand New Dance”: An Unofficial Slideshow

Cross-posted at my Unoffical: Loudon Wainwright III fan page. This is fairly dark song and slideshow, although leavened by a good deal of humor and a blast of rock and roll energy Although Loudon has written rock songs before (“At Both Ends,” “Watch Me Rock, I’m Over Thirty”), they don’t tend to be his signature songs. This rockabilly number is from Loudon’s 2014 album, Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet). It works remarkably well, and fuses nicely with Loudon’s tongue-in-cheek celebration of the “joys” of aging. Hope you enjoy the slideshow, although–like the song–it does raise some serious points.

Loudon Wainwright III’s The S*** Song: An unofficial slideshow

Loudon Wainwright III’s The S*** Song: An unofficial slideshow

This has been a rather humbling few days, although in sort of a good way. One of the benefits of making a fan page like my Unofficial: Loudon Wainwright III on Facebook is that you find out stuff you would not have otherwise known about through people’s comments. Thus, about three days ago I discovered Loudon had a book out (Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things). I bought it and downloaded it on my Kindle app. The first chapter (all I have read) is very engaging, almost brutally honest, and rather funny (that’s kind of how Loudon works). Then event sounds like a conversation/book signing with maybe a couple of songs (I hope) at the Largo on Cahuenga. The admission comes with a copy of the book, so it looks like I’ll have a hard copy too, which presumably I can get signed. If I’m really lucky (I’m planning to bring a camera), I can get my photograph taken with Loudon, which will promptly replace the one I currently have with Rufus on my Unofficial Loudon Wainwright III facebook page (it will stay up, of course, on my Rufus page). While I’m not totally sure I’ll be able to go, he is also performing what I assume will be a largely musical set at McCabe’s guitar shop in Santa Monica on Saturday night (it’s sold out, so if anyone has a ticket they are willing to sell, message me). Sheesh, talk about an embarrassment of riches.

All of that has nothing really to do with the following slideshow, although if I stretch I suppose I could say it is another live version of one of Loudon’s songs, and I’ll be seeing him live so that’s a connection, I guess. I must admit, I’m rather partial to his live albums, partly because he is such an engaging performer, and I think partly because the “So Damn Happy” live album is when I got back into Loudon’s music after not really having listened to him for about two decades. Well, this is another song from “So Damn Happy” (so were “Much Better Bets” and “Men”), with the slightly off-putting title, “The S*** Song.” The whole song is really just a metaphor, of course, and I hope that the slideshow succeeds in highlighting those metaphoric implications without being too disgusting. Despite the title, it’s a very wise song and–while there is one moment he might seem to be mocking the disabled (and yes, I laugh every time I hear it), as with so many of Loudon’s songs, I think there is something much more subtle and even profound going on. WARNING: Includes profanity (if you haven’t figured that out).

 

Bluebirds Fly: A Slideshow Inspired by Rufus Wainwright and His Mom, Kate McGarrigle

Bluebirds Fly: A Slideshow Inspired by Rufus Wainwright and His Mom, Kate McGarrigle

I had really thought the next Rufus Wainwright song I would be trying to turn into a slideshow would be “What a World,” although I had also been toying with the idea of doing something with his version of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” More or less by accident, I ran into this version of “Zebulon” that includes a rather moving introduction about how he came to write the song after visiting his mother, noted folksinger Kate McGarrigle, in the hospital in Montreal and then walking back up over a hill overlooking the city to his home, reminiscing about earlier, happier times when the tune more or less blossomed before him in a sudden quickening of inspiration. I pretty much immediately realized I could use this to introduce his version of “Who Knows,” and–after a little more poking around–I stumbled upon this lovely version of Harold Arlen‘s “Over the Rainbow,” recorded at a 2009 Manchester concert, accompanied by his Mom on piano (she passed away from cancer in 2010). As my Mom is 94, pretty much wheelchair bound, and currently on hospice care, mortality has been on my mind a good deal of late, so this project became a means of working through and articulating some of my own feelings, although the photographs are largely of the Wainwrights or McGarrigles, Montreal, or nature scenes of one sort or another (the bridal shower invitation is actually for my Mom–I have been working on a slideshow for her and going through and scanning lots of old photographs from family albums, but that is the only photo directly associalted with me or my family). As a result, this slideshow, much more than most, feels strangely personal, and I feel strangely moved by it, in a way I can only describe as exqusite–an oddly aesthetic word with which to describe an emotional experience.

The slideshow (and the songs that accompany it) attempts to express loss, grief, transcience, and a kind of emotional acceptance, and ultimately it works–if it works at all–more through feeling than any kind of intellectual argument.  I am a little worried that Rufus (who I will actually be seeing in concert soon) may feel that I am intruding on an intensely private and personal matter that he would rather not have other people explore, however sympathetically. If so (assuming he becomes aware of it all), I will take it down as soon as possible. The audio of the introduction to “Zebulon” is from a 2010 performance sponsored by The Guardian newspaper in England, while the audio of the song itself is apparently its first public performance, in 2007 on FIP radio from Paris, France. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” (by Sandy Denny, who I include with one photo of from her Fairport Convention days) is from Rufus’ performance at the 2015 Folk Awards. There are other versions on YouTube, but I thought this one had the best audio quality, and a beautifully shaded vocal rendering from Rufus. As I mention above, Harold Arlen‘s “Over the Rainbow” is from a 2009 performance, accompanied by his mother Kate on piano, from Manchester England, and again Rufus seems to get to the emotional heart of a great song. I hope you like the slideshow, despite its somber subject (I tried to include a couple of gentle laughs), and at any rate you can always just close your eyes and enjoy the music, which borders on sublime throughout, and even occasionally hovers just above where bluebirds fly.

 

 

 

Dead Skunk: An Unofficial Slideshow based on a Loudon Wainwright III song

Dead Skunk: An Unofficial Slideshow based on a Loudon Wainwright III song

This is actually a slideshow I made in response to a comment I got on my “Unofficial:Loudon Wainwright III” Facebook page. John Burns mentioned that he had just been talking about “Dead Skunk” a couple of days before. I responded that people really seemed to like the slideshows I’ve done that feature animals prominently (“Me and My Friend the Cat” has gotten almost twice as many views as my second most popular slideshow), and that I thought he had just given me an idea for my next one. This is the result. It features lots of animals–mostly dead ones (it’s basically a funny, peppy song about roadkill). The audio by the way, is from a YouTube video of Loudon performing on Rockpalast, a German TV show (I think this is from 1984). This is why the end is so abrupt (the clip just ends there), and I tried to fill it out a bit with a couple of appropriate sound effects from iMovie. I also included some of Loudon’s introduction, partly for historical interest, and partly because it allowed me to insert a little bit of political satire. I apologize if you are offended by it, although I suspect that there is not all that much overlap between passionate Loudon Wainwright III fans and passionate fans of the current administration, so I don’t expect it to be a huge problem.

Me and My Friend the Cat: A Slideshow Inspired and Accompanied by a Loudon Wainwright III song

Me and My Friend the Cat: A Slideshow Inspired and Accompanied by a Loudon Wainwright III song

After having done three rather dark slideshows inspired by Loudon Wainwright III songs, “Dead Man,” “Men,” and “Unhappy Anniversary,” this celebration of human-feline relationships is a nice change of pace. The song, “Me and My Friend the Cat,” is from “Album II,” when Loudon was recording for Atlantic Records. I am not going for any deep meanings or political points, beyond the obvious “be nice to cats and they’ll be nice to you, and “don’t I have pretty cats?” (the blue Persian is my beloved Mitzy; the tabby with the striking green eyes is Melissa, and the one that looks like a Russian Blue is Moakey) While one could extend this message to human relationships to other species (or even other humans), the slideshow really makes no attempt to do so and I’d be surprised if anybody drew such a message from it. Anyway, I hope you like it, and find it fun.