Posted July 30, 2020 by whopperjaw in Tunes

Loudon Wainwright III Revisits the Great American Songbook for New Album

Loudon Wainwright III by Ross Halfin
Loudon Wainwright III by Ross Halfin

Veteran singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III has revealed that his new album, I’d Rather Lead A Band, will be a collaboration with Vince Giordano and his band the Nighthawks and producer and music supervisor Randall Poster.

Due out Oct. 9, the 14-song collection is a loose, fresh, and “anti-nostalgic” take on classic songs from the 1920s and ’30s featuring Wainwright as singer and band leader.    

The breezy first single, “A Ship Without A Sail,” was recently released.

As interpreters of the Great American Songbook, Wainwright and Giordano’s big band revisit songs by Irving Berlin (“I’d Rather Lead a Band” and “The Little Things In Life”), Fats Waller (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”), Frank Loesser (“More I Cannot Wish You”) and others.  

Wainwright says the songs “reflect on my whole life, really.” 

To choose the songs, Wainwright, Poster and producer Stewart Lerman traded dozens of mp3s and YouTube videos, ultimately whittling them down to 14 picks. The expansive record collection of Loudon’s father, LIFE magazine columnist Loudon Wainwright, helped to inform some selections, as did Loudon Wainwright III’s own musical beginnings as a jug-band singer. Wainwright, Giordano and the Nighthawks then recorded the album in just three days at Electric Lady Studios.   

For Wainwright, I’d Rather Lead a Band was also a welcome chance to take a break from playing his guitar and singing in what he calls his “somewhat misanthropic, occasionally goofy persona.”

“I loved the idea of just being a vocalist,” he says. “It was freeing because I could shed my Loudon Wainwright III-ness. I will no doubt return to my foremost incarnation but what a pleasure it was to settle back with this marvelous band and sing these songs.”

A common thread of this project is the participants’ involvement with the 2012 Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, for which Poster and Lerman both won a Grammy. Poster oversaw the music for the HBO series set in Atlantic City in the 1920s. Giordano, an expert on the music of the era, and his band were featured throughout the series; And Wainwright, who first met Poster while appearing in Scorsese’s The Aviator, recorded three songs for Boardwalk Empire as well.  

For the past 50 years, Wainwright has eked out a living as one of America’s most original singer-songwriters. Along the way, he’s released more than 20 albums, acted in film and TV, and has had his songs recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Mose Allison, Bonnie Raitt, and his son, Rufus Wainwright.

 His one man show, Surviving Twin, based on his father’s LIFE magazine column in the 1960s, toured internationally and became a Netflix special directed by Christopher Guest and produced by Judd Apatow. Wainwright has also published a memoir, Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things, and in 2018 issued Years in the Making, a 42-track “audio-biography” of rare, offbeat recordings from his career.

Photo by Ross Halfin


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