With a career spanning more than four decades and still going strong, Loudon Wainwright III has established himself as one of the most enduring singer songwriters of his generation. Few others have revealed their lives so intimately in songs about parents, grandparents, children, siblings, and wives. As Loudon himself says, “It’s taken so long to finally see / My songs about you are all about me” (Taken from ‘So Many Songs’). Loudon’s songs are funny, incisive and heartbreaking.
In his new memoir, Liner Notes On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay & A Few of My Other Favorite Things published on October 26th on Omnibus Press, Wainwright continues to emphasise the personal. In the book he details the family history his lyrics reference, and the fractured relationships in the Wainwright family throughout generations, including issues of alcoholism, infidelity, competitiveness, closeness, successes and joy. Wainwright also reflects on the experiences that have so clearly influenced his songwriting: boarding school, the music business, swimming, macrobiotics, sex, incarceration, and something he enigmatically calls the “Sir Walter Raleigh Syndrome”.
Very much about being a son – a status that dominates many of Wainwright’s songs – Liner Notes is also about being a parent, a brother, and a grandfather. Song lyrics are included throughout the book and amplify Wainwright’s prose while demonstrating the connections between his songs and real life. Also included are excerpts and selections from his father’s brilliant LIFE magazine columns, reinforcing him as a major essayist of his era.
A funny and insightful meditation on family, inspiration, and art, Liner Notes will captivate not only existing fans, but anyone who appreciates the intersection of music, relationships, life and love.
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Anyone who has been a fan of the McGarrigles will be familiar with multi-instrumentalist Chaim Tannenbaum. Friends with Kate and Anna at high school in Montreal, he joined their group, the Mountain City Four, in the mid-60s and, after a brief hiatus as they went their separate ways, reunited with the sisters for their debut album and subsequently played on a further eight of their albums. The relationship also led to his involvement with Kate’s then husband, Loudon Wainwright III, first serving as executive producer on 1984’s I’m Alright and then going on to play on a further ten, as well as producing several of them. He has also been a regular touring member for both Wainwright and the McGarrigles.
In addition, he’s also appeared on albums by both Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Linda Thompson and Beck. However, in all that time, content to remain the background, he’s never released anything of his own. But now, at 68, encouraged by producer Dick Connete, with whom he worked on Loudon’s Grammy-winning High, Wide & Handsome, he’s just recorded his debut album. In keeping with his quiet, modest and somewhat studious persona (he’s also a teacher), it’s an understated but impeccably tasteful affair that draws on his formative exposure to the work of Guthrie, Seeger and other singers and songwriters from the early years of American folk music. As such, there’s several traditional tunes here, Tannenbaum restricting himself to either banjo or guitar, with one excursion on piano, while various guests provide the other instrumentation, most notably long time cohort David Mansfield on violin and slide with Wainwright providing backing vocals on three of the numbers.
The album makes its bow with just voice and guitar on a simple just under two-minute reading of Rev. A.W. Fletcher’s much recorded ‘Farther Along’ before being joined by Wainright, Mansfield, Connette (on percussion) and backing vocalist Margaret Glaspy for a fine piano-backed version of prison work song “Ain’t No More Cane on the Brazos”, apparently learnt from a Lonnie Donegan recording, with Tannenbaum’s reedy vocal investing spiritual dimension. The traditional repertoire continues with the violin and guitar arrangement of the lazing, whistling ragtime ‘Coal Man Blues’ and, with just Connette on harmonium, the celebration of a tipple or two with the hymnal-like ‘Moonshiner’, the ‘too ra loo la roo la roo’ refrain nodding to Irish roots.
A fuller sound returns with ‘Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit’ which features accordion, tuba, trumpet and taps for a frisky, thigh slapper riverside spiritual learned from the recording by Luther Magby, though, even earlier, is the waltzing ‘Mama’s Angel Child’ which, featuring mandolin-banjo, stems from the canon of Sweet Papa Stovepipe, aka, African-American bluesman Johnny Watson, who’s thought to be the earliest example of an American bluesman recording.
The first of the four Tannenbaum originals is something of an epic, the near ten minute semi-spoken ‘London, Longing For Home’, on which, backed by cornet, accordion, clarinet, flugelhorn and euphonium, he recounts a sojourn in London with its crowds, dirt, rain, tradition and mouths full of brown broken teeth, namechecking Acton and Tottenham and interpolating the chorus of the classic homesick longing of traditional American folk song Oh Shenandoah.
He mentions Milton, Marvell and Dickens here, but it’s another English literary source that underpins the Music Hall-like ‘Business Girls’, a London-set poem by John Betjeman set to music variously by Erik Satie and Tom Gilbert and featuring French horns, violin and cello. It’s back to self-penned material for ‘Brooklyn 1955’, a simple voice and guitar exercise in nostalgia of summers spent watching the Dodgers play at Ebbets Field before they moved to L.A. It’s not autobiographical (he’s a Yankees fan), but it does address the feeling of being in exile from your own past, its markers gradually eroded.
Tracking back in time to the 30s, a rosy glow hangs over the album’s best known number, tuba and accordion accompanying him on a short slow ballroom waltzing rendition of the Hartburg, Rose and Arlen romantic evergreen ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’. Then comes what must have been the most moving, but also the most difficult number to include as he’s joined by Wainwright, with Marcus Rojas on tuba, for his tribute to his late friend Kate McGarrigle on her own achingly wistful homesick anthem ‘(Talk To Me of) Mendocino’, a song he must have performed with her many times, and here given a beautifully heartfelt and reading that brings a lump to the throat.
The album ends with the final self-penned number, ‘Belfast Louis Falls In Love’, an eight-minute shaggy dog storysong about seizing romance when and where it offers itself that mentions Cagney, Garbo, Caruso and Coltrane and sports such philosophical observations as “there are men who think the future is all bicycles and ice cream”, staying in Ireland as he’s joined by Wainwright for a rousing 58-second a capella coda of shanty ‘Paddy Doyle’ taken from a recording by Ewan MacColl.
From Broadway to Appalachia, from the antebellum South to sepia tinted memories of New York, Tannenbaum brings warmth and honesty, running his fingers through the dust of American folk music, stirring up sparkles and a sense of a world we have lost as it shimmers in the light.
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At this years 2015 Radio 2 Folk Awards, Lifetime Achievements went to the legendary “Peace Trained” musician Yusuf / Cat Stevens and Grammy Award-winning “double lifetime” artist Loudon Wainwright III.
Ewan MacColl was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame exists to recognise the special contribution of an individual to the world of folk music; someone whose impact and influence has had a lasting impression.
Meredydd Evans is the 2015 recipient of The Good Tradition Award. The award is given to a person, group or organisation for their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and continuance/progression of traditional music over a number of years.
BEST DUO WINNERS – Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Nominations: Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker O’Hooley & Tidow Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar Chris While & Julie Matthews
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK WINNER – Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
Nominations: Bedlam – Stick In The Wheel Handsome Molly – The Furrow Collective Manus Mo Rùin – Cruinn Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
HORIZON AWARD WINNERS – The Rails
Nominations: Ange Hardy Maz O’Connor Stick In The Wheel The Rails
BEST ORIGINAL SONG WINNERS – Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger)
Nominations: Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger) The Necklace Of Wrens – Michael Hartnett (performed by The Gloaming) The Pitmen Poets – Jez Lowe The Spider And The Wolf – Paul Simmonds (performed by Naomi Bedford)
BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD WINNERS – Talisk
Nominations: Cup O’Joe Roseanne Reid Talisk Wildwood Kin
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR WINNER – Sam Sweeney
Nominations: Martin Green Will Pound Sam Sweeney Kathryn Tickell
BEST ALBUM WINNER – Tincian by 9Bach
Nominations: Fair Warning – The Rails Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour – Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker Sweet Visitor – Nancy Kerr The Moral Of The Elephant – Martin & Eliza Carthy Tincian – 9Bach
BEST GROUP WINNERS – The Young ‘Uns
Nominations: Bellowhead The Furrow Collective The Gloaming The Young ‘Uns
FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR WINNER – Nancy Kerr
Nominations: Cara Dillon Julie Fowlis Nancy Kerr Jez Lowe
The nominees for this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have today been announced by Mark Radcliffe on The Radio 2 Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe (Wednesdays, 7pm-8pm).
The categories up for grabs are: Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Group, Best Album, Horizon Award, Musician of the Year, Best Original Song, Best Traditional Track and BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.
The winners will be announced at the Folk Awards ceremony on Wednesday 22 April at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. The ceremony will be hosted by Mark Radcliffe and singer Julie Fowlis and tickets are available now from bbc.co.uk/radio2/folkawards.
This will be the Awards’ 16th year as some of the biggest names in music come together under one roof to celebrate the UK’s thriving folk scene.
The event will welcome a whole host of star guests and will see legendary performer Yusuf / Cat Stevens headlining. Also confirmed to perform live on the night are Grammy Award-winning artist Loudon Wainwright III, Welsh folk band 9Bach (who will be performing in Welsh) and English folk singer Kate Rusby. Other acts on the line-up will be announced at a later date.
The event will also feature the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame, which recognises the special contribution of an individual to the world of folk music; someone whose impact and influence has had a lasting impression. This year’s inductee will be the influential Ewan MacColl. The awards show will also include the presentation of Lifetime Achievement and Good Tradition Awards.
Drivetime presenter Simon Mayo will be broadcasting a special programme live from the Wales Millennium Centre (5pm-7.30pm) on the day of the awards. The interval will feature performances from the nominees for the Young Folk Award 2015.
Listeners will be able to watch highlights of the awards on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after the event and on Red Button. For more details head to bbc.co.uk/radio2
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards will be broadcast live from 7.30pm-10pm on Radio 2.
Those in the running include:
Folk Singer of the Year
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
O’Hooley & Tidow
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Chris While & Julie Matthews
The Furrow Collective
The Young ‘Uns
Fair Warning – The Rails
Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour – Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Sweet Visitor – Nancy Kerr
The Moral Of The Elephant – Martin & Eliza Carthy
Tincian – 9Bach
Stick In The Wheel
Musician of the Year
Best Original Song
Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger)
The Necklace Of Wrens – Michael Hartnett (performed by The Gloaming)
The Pitmen Poets – Jez Lowe
The Spider And The Wolf – Paul Simmonds (performed by Naomi Bedford)
Best Traditional Track
Bedlam – Stick In The Wheel
Handsome Molly – The Furrow Collective
Manus Mo Rùin – Cruinn
Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award
Making the announcement, Mark Radcliffe said:
“We’ve had another fantastic year in folk music, filled with excellent releases and exciting music from many well-loved and respected acts. But looking through the nominations, I’m particularly happy to see nods for acts that are almost completely unknown to mainstream audiences: The Gloaming, 9Bach, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Ange Hardy, Stick In The Wheel, Cruinn, The Furrow Collective… We know how superb these people are, so it’s wonderful to take this opportunity to shine a bright light on them. And we always say it, but do check out the nominees in our Young Folk Award – the sheer talent in that category is frightening.”