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Loudon Wainwright III at Highline Ballroom September 15th, 2009: Pooleing His Resources

Charley Poole was a very successful banjo player in the 20s who drunk himself to death by the age of thirty-eight. He had a string of pretty good bluegrass before there was bluegrass songs and lead the way for folks like Bill Munro and the Carter family. Poole sole sold 100,000 copies of “Don’t Let The Deal Go Down” when there were only 600,000 record players in the country. If Robert Nevin knows his stuff he loves it.

Me? I don’t love his stuff. The nonsense that because he was before the Carter Family he is the equal of the carter family is easily answered: Pat Boone was before Bob Dylan. Still, having said that ) Poole deserves to be inducted in the country music hall of fame and Loudon Wainwright III, who just released a double album of songs made famous by Poole and influenced by Poole called High, Wide And Handsome, deserves to be applauded for keeping the man’s flame alive.

But what III doesn’t deserve to do is make me stand through an hour (an hour because I left at intermission) of Poole songs: it is like having lunch with a philatelist: you appreciate their passion but you don’t share it. I hadn’t been overwhelmed by what I heard of the album except for a song here and a song there, and except when the women sang last night (take a bow the Roches, and you too Martha) Loudon III and his band were extremely gifted bores. The son Rufus came out for background vocals on one song and a verse on another and came across like a complete plank. I’m surprised Loudon didn’t punch him.

I have been a fan of Wainwright’s for a long, long time, his tales of romantic disasters that over decades changed to familial disasters have made him a very popular American artist and his songs for the sountrack of the moved “Knocked Up” have only added sales to the mix and if he had played those songs it’d been one thing… he didn’t and that was a big time problem.

There was another problem as well. Have you ever gone with your girlfriend to her parents house for Thanksgiving? You’re the outsider amongst all family members who look alike, and sound alike and speak in a creepy shorthand you’re not part of? That’s what the Wainwrights did onstage, there were loads of them and it is overwhelming in a completely horrid way. III is usually just one one of the boys but as the patriach of these guys he exudes a sort of self-satisfaction and it permeates the air effecting everyone it touches except for the Roches who are beyond it and Martha who sang an old dance hall song “The Letter” exceedingly well.

I would have stayed if the Wainwrights had chosen to have a fifteen minute intermission -but I don’t think I could’ve taken it much longer then that. I would see Loudon playing a normal set any time, and Rufus and Martha and, god knows, the Roches but this was a straight drag and I simply don’t collect stamps.

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