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NPR's All Songs Considered Episode 17

NPR Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross
Nov. 22, 2001

featured story Oct.19, 2001
Entertainment Weekly

featured story Oct.14, 2001
Sunday New York Times




Special Guests Include Richard Thompson, Van Dyke Parks, David Mansfield and Martha Wainwright

Recorded Live at Largo in Los Angeles and at the MysticTheater in Petaluma

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – It’s long been said that Loudon Wainwright III is truly in his element onstage. January 2002, during which time he recorded his forthcoming live album titled So Damn Happy, was an artistically fertile time for the veteran singer/songwriter/actor. Wainwright was enjoying the acclaim of a studio album (Last Man On Earth), a Fox TV series ("Undeclared"), and a string of West Coast shows that reunited him with friends in the Los Angeles music scene.

So Damn Happy, slated for August 19 release, presents more than an hour of sublime happiness. The album, his first for Sanctuary Records, was recorded live both at Largo in Los Angeles and the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, Calif. with the help of musical peers Richard Thompson (guitar), Van Dyke Parks (piano), David Mansfield (guitar/fiddle/mandolin) and daughter Martha Wainwright (vocals.). Stewart Lerman also reprises his role as producer on So Damn Happy following his work on 2001's Last Man On Earth.

Wainwright’s happiness was compounded by a return to Los Angeles, his boyhood home (his father ran the L.A. bureau of Life magazine in the '50s) where he once again lives part-time. The L.A. base helps him maintain a proximity to his second career, acting. In addition to starring in "Undeclared," Wainwright appears in Tim Burton’s upcoming film "Big Fish," alongside Ewan McGregor, Jessica Lange, Albert Finney, Danny DeVito and Steve Buscemi, scheduled for Christmas release. His resume also includes roles on "Ally McBeal" as well as Neil Simon's "The Slugger’s Wife," David Jones's "Jacknife," starring Robert De Niro, and the Betty Thomas film "28 Days," starring Sandra Bullock (which also featured four songs by Loudon.) Loudon also appeared on three episodes of "M*A*S*H."

2003 is shaping up to be a musical year for Wainwright. As he prepares for the August release of So Damn Happy, he will visit Germany to participate in the Ruhr Triennale Arts Festival. Recording artist Bill Frisell (of Naked City and with other musical credits too numerous to list) is overseeing the festival’s "Century Of The Song" series during which Wainwright will appear as a featured performer at the festival July 11 and 13, accompanied by the legendary Van Dyke Parks (who is heard on So Damn Happy) and Frisell himself. Noted songwriters Suzanne Vega and Elvis Costello headline separate nights.

The new live disc features a cross-section of material from throughout Wainwright’s post -1990 career as well as five brand new songs (notable exceptions being "Westchester County" from 1983’s Fame And Wealth album and "The Home Stretch" from 1986’s More Love Songs, on which Richard Thompson played both on the original and the new live version.)

According to Wainwright, "I enjoy being in a studio but my songs are written to be performed so it's extremely satisfying to get the intended reaction -- and/or any unintended reaction from a live audience. Hopefully those listening to this CD will be able to pick up on that chemistry".

Loudon Wainwright III has recorded 20 albums, has been nominated for two Grammy® awards and his songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and most recently by son Rufus Wainwright. He has also written commentaries and topical songs for NPR, The New York Times and ABC’s "Nightline."

Wainwright’s storied song history has received much critical acclaim over the years. Q magazine cited him as "one of the greatest lyricists of the age." The New York Times wrote of him, "Mr. Wainwright wrings more human truth out of his contradiction than any other songwriter of his generation." And the New York Observer added, "Mr. Wainwright is one of the few artists who has actually gotten better as he's gotten older."