With humor, Loudon Wainwright III goes it alone

Fourth Street Live is wrapping up its weekly Homegrown Music Series, which put more than a dozen original Louisville acts onstage over the past month and half. This Friday there’s a party at Angel’s Rockbar featuring Wax Fang and How I Became the Bomb (8 p.m., $5). As for other concerts, here are a few to watch for this week:

Friday, Dec. 7
In terms of philosophy and style, Jackyl falls somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath. Loved by bikers and kids in denim jackets, this crew has been relentless in its efforts to rock America. In fact, since first hitting the road in 1991, the band’s grueling tour schedule has landed them in the “Guinness Book of World Records” multiple times. These hard-hitting, record-setting madmen appear at City Block (formerly known as O’Malley’s Corner, still at 116 W. Jefferson St., 589-3866) at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance, $18 at the door.

Saturday Dec. 8
Cornmeal is an increasingly popular, banjo-driven jam band from Chicago. Their influences range from Frank Zappa to Bill Monroe, and their sound is akin to Old & In The Way and Bluegrass Alliance. They make a special appearance at Wick’s Pizza (975 Baxter Ave., 458-1828) this weekend. The performance starts at 8 p.m., and admission is free. For more info and song samples, visit www.myspace.com/cornmealinthekitchen.

Sunday, Dec. 9
Loudon Wainwright III is famous for a novelty radio hit (“Dead Skunk”), random TV and movie cameos (i.e., the singing surgeon on M*A*S*H), and his flamboyant offspring (Rufus and Martha). Which mean his talents as a serious composer are often overlooked.

Wainwright, a baby-boomer and the son of a Life magazine editor, grew up in a semi-affluent environment where musical theater and jazz informed his young ears. But he came of age in America during tumultuous times, and he soon gravitated toward the substantive lyrics of Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.
One day, after Wainwright had already dropped out of drama school, he inadvertently wrote a song of his own and thus stumbled into his life’s work.

“I saw how miserable my father was as a writer, so I had never intended to do that sort of thing for a career,” Wainwright told LEO.

“But I also saw guys my age or a little older writing and singing about what was going on in our world,” he said. “And that seemed like something that I might want to do. Besides, when I started out, it was the late-’60s, and male singer-songwriter types were very much en vogue.
“So,” he joked, “it was an easy thing to get into.”

Over the years, Wainwright’s consistently offbeat approach to crafting songs has endeared him to fans and earned him the utmost respect of his peers.

Though he boasts a long resume of artistic achievements, Wainwright’s recent, somewhat accidental collaboration with producer Joe Henry is considered by many to be his best work yet.

The exquisite songs from the resulting album, Strange Weirdos, will likely be the focal point of Wainwright’s career-spanning show at the Clifton Center (2117 Payne St., 896-8480). But, as usual, Wainwright will go it alone onstage.

“I’m proud of the record, and I’d love to tour with Joe and the other guys from the sessions. But I probably couldn’t afford them, anyway. I’ve always had to make my money as a performing songwriter. The way I do it, there is no overhead … just me, the guitar and a bag.”
Loudon Wainwright III performs for an all-ages crowd at 7:30 p.m. Amy LaVere opens the show.

Tuesday, Dec. 11

The bad boys of Western swing are headed back to the River City. Cody Canada and his rowdy collective, Cross Canadian Ragweed, have long delighted audiences with their eclectic array of fun covers and raucous originals.
Their latest disc, Mission California, finds them interpreting the likes of Chris Knight and Todd Snider, and is sure to translate well in a concert setting. CCR appears at Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) at 9 p.m.

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