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Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright III - High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project – 2009 (2nd Story Sound)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Loudon Wainwright III

There's something about Charlie Poole's rambling ways that attracts Loudon Wainwright III, which is why he's recorded this healthy, two-CD tribute to the pioneering roots musician. Although Poole was not a songwriter, as is Wainwright, this banjo picking good time Charlie, who died at 39 in 1931, always seemed to pick songs that reflected his freewheeling lifestyle. Wainwright has recorded some favorite Poole tunes, as well as a few of his own, and gives the listener a well-rounded picture of the man.

A packed CD booklet, which includes both lyrics and essays by such esteemed writers as Greil Marcus, also helps the listener get up to speed on all things Charlie Poole. This project opens with its title cut that includes the line, "Song, wine, and women - they're my 3 favorites." And what follows, are generally variations on these three partying themes. On The Man in the Moon, guest vocalist Maggie Roche beautifully sings lead. There are also plenty of topnotch musicians, including Chris Thile, whose mandolin work stands out during the instrumental Ragtime Annie, and elsewhere. There's also a touch of sadness herein, which is only fair, as Wainwright can also be equally melancholy. The Letter That Never Came, speaking of sadness, is about a sad sack, who, like Linus and his Great Pumpkin obsession, is left waiting in vain. Didn't He Ramble, which features just Wainwright and his acoustic guitar, is the disc's best recording and sounds a lot like Peter Case at his unplugged best.