Loudon Wainwright III - Album III LP

(Columbia, 1972)

"Loudon Wainwright, folk rocker and writer of sardonic, witty, and sometimes touching songs, is the only performer ever to break through to stardom with a song about a dead skunk. It’s certainly not a stratagem recommended by the professors at rock school. But that’s the way it’s always been with Wainwright; the subjects of his songs are the stuff of everyday life, cast into a prism of pure mirth by his intelligent and often hilarious lyrics. Known primarily for “Dead Skunk” and the great “The Swimming Song,” Wainwright has written scads of wondrous tunes, some of them drolly funny, and some of them truly moving.

“Dead Skunk” deserves its immortal status; fiddle, violin, banjo, and who knows what else play a melody that is utterly happy-making and may or may not be filched from Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” Meanwhile Wainwright sings his gory tune of death on the road: “Dead skunk in the middle of the road/Stinking to high heaven.” He recommends, “Roll up the windows and hold your nose/You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see/Because you can feel it in your olfactory.” I personally love it when he interjects, as if talking to the deceased skunk, “C’mon stink!” And the way he goes crazy towards the end, shouting, “And it’s stinking to high high heaven!” “Red guitar” is a slow plaintive tune, and is just Wainwright and a piano. He recounts the night he destroyed his guitar: “Used to have a red guitar/Until I smashed it drunk one night/Smashed it in the classic form/As Peter Townshend might/Threw it in the fireplace/Left it there a while.” The Townshend reference is classic, and I like this one despite its bare bones and lack of a lovely melody.

Loudon Wainwright III’s witty and droll approach to songwriting has brought pleasure to many, yours truly most definitely included. Like Randy Newman he looks askance at the vicissitudes of life, but he’s good-natured rather than embittered by the conditions of human existence. He actually seems to cherish being alive... In short he’s an optimist in pessimist’s clothing, and is determined to relish his time on earth and to share his joy with others." - Michael H. Little for The Vinyl District