Loudon Wainwright III | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Loudon Wainwright III 

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Loudon Wainwright III is the renegade uncle who your family deplores but you harbor a soft spot for. It's practically guaranteed he'll ruin Thanksgiving dinner by blurting some sexist quip or leaking some unsavory secret, but his egotism charms you, if only because you're beyond the reach of his carelessness. Wainwright's occasionally true to assholic form on the new Here Come the Choppers! (Sovereign Artists)--on "Make Your Mother Mad" he attempts to rob the cradle of an old flame--but more often he sounds old and justifiably scared. On the title track, where he imagines an insurgent attack on Los Angeles, he sounds almost relieved that his age makes the future somebody else's problem. Then he looks backward--to the grandfather he never met on "Half Fist," to his chain-smoking, gin-swilling grandmother on "Nanny," and, no less movingly, to a pair of cultural icons on "Hank & Fred" (Williams and Rogers, respectively). Bill Frisell's countrified and elegiac guitar tone, which often ranges too far afield on his own discs, sounds sturdier alongside Wainwright's lyrical specifics while still giving the music some stylistic breadth. And if "My Biggest Fan" makes fun of its subject (he's 400 pounds, get it?), Wainwright makes himself a punch line too: his most ardent admirer thinks Bob Dylan and Neil Young are much better songwriters. The Wailin' Jennys open. Sat 9/24, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $25. All ages.

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