By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
It's been a season of rock 'n' roll legacies in the
music biz. We've seen albums from Chris Stills, son of
Stephen; Emma Townshend, daughter of Pete; and Sean Lennon,
son of John — and none of them have been very striking.
Enter Rufus Wainwright, son of folkies Kate McGarrigle
and the also cumbersomely named Loudon Wainwright III. He
looks hip enough — leather jackets, bushy hair, knife-blade
sideburns — but he's crafted a debut that won't seem hip
right away. Wainwright, you see, is so freakin' talented,
he will have to slip into his destiny as the Gen-X Cole
Porter or Kurt Weill slowly.
Those comparisons are not tossed in here merely as
reference points for the reader. Wainwright is writing
standards on that level of charm and genius. His songs have
been described as retro (or, my favorite, “popera''), but
that's simply because the young generation responding to
Wainwright's timeless laments and musical sighs only know
of standards from the perspective of their parents. But
these days it's the mainstream to buck tradition, so
Wainwright's return to the traditional conventions of 20th
century classic songwriting may turn out to be the hippest
Like his father, the younger Wainwright writes form very
personal experiences, but unlike Loudon, Rufus phrases his
lovelorn laments and cheery ruminations in an omniscient
voice. It's just as easy to place yourself in the center of
the moseying “Foolish Love'' as it is his own reminiscing
on boarding school days in the jaunty “Millbrook.'' His
“Danny Boy'' is a rolling original, though like many of
the songs it restrains Wainwright's delicious, reedy tenor
into one constraining octave. String arrangements
throughout are courtesy of Van Dyke Parks — a definite
kindred spirit — while Jim Keltner provides drums and Jon
This debut is an intelligent cabaret — with all the sly
wit of Porter and the high-though-furrowed brow of Weill.
Several notches above the cleverness of Ben Folds,
Wainwright could be the closest thing my generation has
come to an original, classic entertainer.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.