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Loudon Wainwright III – High, Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project

Loundon Wainwright III - Wide, High and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project CD Cover

Loundon Wainwright III – Wide, High and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project CD Cover

© 2nd Story Sound

Charlie Poole, along with his band, the North Carolina Ramblers, was one of the most influential traditional-style folk artists of the 20th Century. His music was a strong early influence on bluegrass pioneers like Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, but his career was cut short when he died of heart failure in 1931.This comprehensive two-disc collection breathes new life into Poole’s finest and most influential recordings. Wainwright’s interpretations and arrangements are inspired while staying true to Poole’s legacy and talent.

A Musical History Lesson

Not only are the songs on High, Wide, and Handsome full of historical references to life during the Great Depression, but they’re also full of timeless themes (being broke, in love, trying to kick booze).A good tribute album doesn’t simply address the songs the way they were written, but crawls into the music to deliver interpretations which at once honor their artistry while underscoring their universality. Wainwright doesn’t simply dress up in Poole’s clothes (figuratively speaking, of course), but delivers his musical messages in a manner which spotlights the extent to which they remain culturally relevant.


Songs like “Goodbye Booze” and “My Mother and My Sweetheart” have lyrics and themes which will likely never become antiquated. “Awful Hungry Hash House” is an hilarious story about the worst possible boarding house experience ever, mashed up with the chorus of “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life.” It captures that sentiment which is all too often impossible to tap in music: sarcasm (“The butter has red hair”).Then, there are also the songs Wainwright wrote in honor of Poole, and inserted into the lineup. Most notable among them is “Charlie’s Last Song” – a tribute to Poole’s memory and legacy, and also to the drinking habit which saw the death of him.

Throughout the disc, Wainwright is joined by his famously musically gifted offspring – Rufus and Martha Wainwright. The two add tight, intuitive harmonies to the mix, behind their father’s simple and considerate instrumentation. Suzzy Roche delivers a notable vocal performance on “Man on the Moon.” In other words, true to the craft of traditional folk music, this disc is a family and community effort, pulling listeners into songs whose insights are humorous, thoughtful, provocative, and emotionally stirring. Without a doubt, this is one of the finest tribute records of recent memory


January 31, 2010 - Posted by | 1

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