Loudon Wainwright III is a guy with a guitar, a quick wit, and a cutting lyrical sensibility. For more than 30 years he's played the role of courtyard jester in the realm of folk-rock music, off in the sidelines with song titles like "Me And My Friend The Cat," "I Know I'm Unhappy," and "Glad To See You've Got Religion."
Wainwright is probably better-known these days to the mass audience for his acting turns, with small parts in movies like Elizabethtown and Big Fish, and as divorced father Hal Karp in the great short-lived TV series Undeclared. He also appeared as the "singing surgeon" Captain Spaulding on several episodes of M*A*S*H. But he's got a devoted cult audience as a songwriter, as a satirical bard who leeringly plucks at sacred cows. His children, Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright, have also become fairly well-known singers.
Now, his very first two albums have been re-released on CD by the Collector's Choice label – his self-titled debut, also known as Album I (1970), and Album II (1971). While they aren't as polished or acclaimed as Wainwright's later work, they're still interesting albums. They work as a snapshot of the folkie scene of the early 1970s, but Wainwright's skewed satirical take on that movement is evident. Wainwright's snarky humor with asides like "I rarely make love / I mostly get laid" seem aimed at deflating the hippie-era romanticism with a more jaded real-world attitude. He got tagged as "The New Dylan" by some critics but that's just lazy critic-speak in action – Wainwright is more of a godfather of oddball folk-pop such as the Violent Femmes or The Flaming Lips, and rarely classified himself as "folk." Each of the new reissues is backed up with informative, insightful liner notes by Richie Unterberger.