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Album: Loudon Wainwright III with Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks – I’d Rather Lead a Band | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Loudon Wainwright III with Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks – I’d Rather Lead a Band

Album: Loudon Wainwright III with Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks – I’d Rather Lead a Band

Loudon looks back at the Jazz Age

Songs your mother should know

Those Wainwrights, they never cease to surprise. Get out your soft shoes and prepare to shuffle, for the “six-string diarist” has set his guitar aside and put on his metaphorical tux to croon with a band on more than a dozen timeless classics. Songs (to coin a phrase) that your mother would know.

Those Wainwrights, they never cease to surprise. Get out your soft shoes and prepare to shuffle, for the “six-string diarist” has set his guitar aside and put on his metaphorical tux to croon with a band on more than a dozen timeless classics. Songs (to coin a phrase) that your mother would know.

It appears the genesis for I’d Rather Lead a Band was the participants’ shared work on the music for Boardwalk Empire, set in 1920s Atlantic City. The songs – which, says Wainwright, “reflect on my whole life, really” – were chosen by Nighthawks bandleader Vince Giordano, with producers and music supervisors Randall Poster and Stewart Lerman, who won a Grammy for the HBO series soundtrack for which Wainwright recorded three songs. Giordano, who arranged the songs, is a long-time fixture on the New York City nightclub scene.

It’s an atmospheric, feel-good set with both fine singing by Wainwright and spirited playing by Giordano on string bass, bass sax and tuba; Andy Stein, Rob Hecht and David Mansfield (a cherubic presence in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue) on violin and baritone sax; Mike Ponella, Jon-Erik Kelso and Joe Boga on trumpets; Jim Fryer and Alix Tucou on trombones; Evan Arntzen, Mark Lopeman and Peter Anderson on reeds; Pete Yarin on piano; Arnt Arntzen on guitar and banjo; and Paul Wells on drums. The album was recorded at Electric Lady, the studio Jimi Hendrix built in Greenwich Village but sadly never lived to experience.

The aim was an “anti-nostalgic” take on some classics, though surely that’s an oxymoron. How can a collection of old-time classics not be nostalgic? They sound fresh, if that’s what he means, and it’s a stylish collection that one hopes will introduce some timeless songs to a new audience. It’s a far classier and more polished foray into the genre than James Taylor’s spring outing and it does take you time-travelling into the Jazz Age of Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker – the years of Prohibition and the so-called Lost Generation. Of course, we are all now lost but booze is easy to come by.

It’s hard to pick favourites, but “How I Love You”, the album’s opener, transports you to the Cotton Club, hip flask secreted in your cloche bag. “My Blue Heaven” is utterly beguiling, and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is deftly handled. In our currently imperfect world, “A Perfect Day”, the Carrie Jacobs-Bond parlour song, whose lyric was written at the Mission Inn at Riverside, California, and the melody as she watched the sun sink over the Mojave Desert, feels a touch ironic, but perhaps it should remind us to make the most of every sunset.

It is, as Wainwright sings on the album, all about “The Little Things in Life”.



The aim was an 'anti-nostalgic' take on some classics, but how can a collection of old-time classics not be nostalgic?

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