Loudon Wainwright at his best on Strange Weirdos
Loudon Wainwright III has been supplying a soundtrack to the lives of the NPR generation for more than 30 years, so it makes sense for him to compose movie music. Recruited by writer-director Judd Apatow to supply songs for the upcoming comedy Knocked Up, Wainwright delivers a record to rival his best work.Like most soundtrack albums, Strange Weirdos is a patchwork product, with a mix of original tunes by Wainwright, a couple of covers, a new recording of his 1973 gem Lullaby and two instrumentals by collaborator Joe Henry. But the seams are hardly evident, and the entire set is thoroughly Wainwright vivid, honest and funny.Knocked Up involves parenthood, and while Wainwright addresses that topic, he also offers droll observations on such Boomer perennials as aging, suburban ennui and the California dream denied. Wainwright has never sung better, delivering each punchline with the timing of a great comic, which he is. As a bonus, Richard Thompson whose own fine new album comes out this month enhances three cuts with his guitar work.All things considered, Strange Weirdos is a delight.CHECK THIS OUT: Valley Morning, a slice of suburbia that gives mundane details a cinematic grandeur.
Breakfast in Bed is an apt title for Joan Osbornes latest release, because she sounds barely awake. The album is supposedly an homage to the soul and R&B of the late 60s and 70s, but the irresistible groove common to such songs is absent.Instead, theres often barely a pulse. Sara Smile, Aint No Sunshine, Midnight Train to Georgia Osborne delivers them all politely at midtempo over the sort of faithful, soulless arrangements provided by a karaoke machine.A singer capable of generating considerable heat, Osborne sounds more engaged and energetic on the songs she wrote, and one of them I Know Whats Goin On even musters a dance beat. The best covers are the closing Heat Wave and What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, both renditions from her appearance in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.But they seem tacked on, because they are, and theyre too late to salvage the set. After Breakfast in Bed, listeners may need a nap.CHECK THIS OUT: I Know Whats Goin On. Some 45 minutes into the album, Osborne rewards her audiences persistence by humming, and shes one of the great hummers.