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Last Man On Earth

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Album Review

In the years since his breakthrough masterpiece, History, Loudon Wainwright III has coasted on craftsmanship and loutish charm. The autobiographical tales of love and family on Grown Man and Little Ship bypassed the heart and gut in favor of the brain and funny bone. The themes were familiar; the emotions seemed played-out. What a difference suffering can make. Written after the death of his mother, Last Man on Earth is a brilliant return to form. It isn't as earthy or direct an album as History. Strings and doo wop background vocals occasionally adorn the arrangements, and Wainwright's phrasing has become fussy. He often insists on pronouncing two full words when a contraction would better suit the rhythm of the song. A mannered presentation, however, cannot cover up the depth of his soul-searching. The three opening songs ("Missing You," "Living Alone," and the ingenious "White Winos") add up to an exploration of loneliness as nuanced and poignant as any in popular music. The title track expands on the same sentiments, turning Wainwright's disdain of cell phones and the Internet into a commentary on isolation. And there could be no more appropriate ending to an album released in the wake of September 11, 2001, than the final lines of "Homeless": "Now I feel like I'm homeless/But I will be alright/I'll get through the days/I'll face down the night." It takes an exceptional artist to make an expression of personal sorrow seem relevant in a time of national crisis. Loudon Wainwright is an exceptional artist.

Customer Reviews

Don't hesitate

I stopped here to check out a song preview or two as a friend of mine suggested. I thought I would buy the cover song but got distracted and I accidently bought the album instead - it was the best few bucks I ever spent on iTunes. "Missing You" is one of the best songs I have ever found on iTunes and I am now a fan of this man's thoughts wonderfully expressed through his music. Don't hesitate buying this album, you'll listen to it a lot more than most.

Loudon's Most Sorrowful. Hence, His Best

I am probably one of the semi-small handful of Loudon's most devoted listeners. He's not for everyone. Heck, he's not for most. But for those who have the privilege of being exposed to his work, Loudon provides a mix of honesty, humor, and soul-baring pathos that no other singer-songwriter can match. “White Winos” is, in my humble opinion, his single greatest song. A seemingly good-natured tribute to fond memories of enjoying some end-of-day vino with his mother, the song starts innocently and humorously, but then turns dark as the singer examines his family’s complicated, painful history (divorce and death) and his own sad place alone in the world. Of course, it ends Loudon-like with a bit of self-deprecation and sarcasm, as if examining the pain was just a little too much to deal with. And it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful circular fugue. That’s just beginning. Add to it songs like the title track, “Missing You,” “Living Alone,” “Out of Reach,” and “Surviving Twin” and you’ll understand (and appreciate) everything Loudon offers.

Great album

A great album. White Winos (the most popular song on iTunes on this album) explores his relationship with his mother and is an exceptional song, but Surviving Twin is one of the best songs I've ever heard. I've called for it every time I've seen him in concert and he did it last time. Graveyard is also a great song. One of his best albums.


Born: September 5, 1946 in Chapel Hill, NC

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Loudon Wainwright III grew up in the town of Bedford in wealthy Westchester County north of New York City, the son of Loudon S. Wainwright, Jr., a writer and editor at Life magazine and a direct descendant of colonial governor Peter Stuyvesant. Wainwright became a folk singer/songwriter in the late '60s, singing humorous and nakedly honest autobiographical songs. Signed to Atlantic Records, he recorded Album I (1970) and Album II (1971), accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, before switching to...
Full Bio

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