See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recovery

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

From the beginning of his career, folk singer Loudon Wainwright III has been looking back. On his 1970 debut, he penned "School Days," a nostalgic song reminiscing about his days as a young stud. The joke at the time was that Wainwright wasn't even 25 yet. It's a joke that's stayed with him: Indeed, the man's three-decade-plus oeuvre is practically a master thesis on our slavish compulsion to romanticize the past at the expense of our perfectly OK present. Recovery is a collection of new recordings of old Wainwright songs, focusing chiefly on his first three albums, and "School Days" is rightly included. The Delaware of his youth is gone, as are Marlon Brando and James Dean, but "School Days," like the best of Recovery, is about piecing together scraps of memories to find the emotional truths that have remained.

Produced by Michigan's own Joe Henry, who adds his typically restrained melancholic touch, Recovery doesn't try to reinvent these songs. If anything, as in the wistful encounter between Wainwright and a groupie in the lonely "Motel Blues," the tales feel undisturbed — better to let time and perspective wash over them. What Wainwright and Henry have done with Recovery is the exact opposite of what Johnny Cash struggled to achieve on the American Recordings albums: By deemphasizing the performer's legacy and gravitas, the material attains a creaky humanity. And as a collection of the minor heartbreaks Wainwright's been able to wring through songwriting, Recovery finds him surprisingly present in his own work.

Friday, Sept. 26 at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-761-1818.

Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Tim Grierson

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit