So Damn Happy was Loudon Wainwright III's third live album, following 1979's A Live One and 1993's Career Moves (and not counting 1975's half-live Unrequited and 1998's collection of airchecks, BBC Sessions). Of its 17 songs, one, the autobiographical "Westchester County," first appeared on 1983's Fame and Wealth (and reappeared on Career Moves); another, "The Home Stretch," came from 1986's More Love Songs; four came from 1992's History; three from 1995's Grown Man; two from 1998's Little Ship; one, "Tonya's Twirls," from 1999's Social Studies; and five were new. (The Last Man on Earth, the album Wainwright was promoting on the January 2002 tour from which the performances were culled, was not tapped for any songs.) Performing at Largo in Los Angeles and at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, CA, Wainwright was able to call upon a few key sidemen, David Mansfield, Richard Thompson, and Van Dyke Parks, for unobtrusive accompaniment, and his daughter Martha joined him in singing the caustic new song "You Never Phone." As usual, the material ranged from the touching to the hilarious, sometimes in the same tune. "Much Better Bets," the newly written leadoff track, was one of Wainwright's patented romantic laments. "Cobwebs," a request from the audience first heard on Grown Man and concerning that four-letter word starting with "L" so frequently used by the younger generation ("an audible pause," among other things, according to Wainwright), was a tongue-twister to which he couldn't get the lyrics straight, though the point was still made. And "Tonya's Twirls," though seemingly a topical song whose time had long since passed, continued to work whether one recalled Tonya Harding or not. Those were only the highlights of a disc that demonstrated Wainwright's wit was still sharp in his fourth decade of work.
Performance CreditsLoudon Wainwright Primary Artist,Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals
Van Dyke Parks Piano
Richard Thompson Guitar
David Mansfield Fiddle,Guitar,Mandolin,Slide Guitar
Martha Wainwright Vocals
Technical CreditsLoudon Wainwright Composer,Producer,Liner Notes
Stewart Lerman Producer
Jamie Bridges Engineer
Mike Kappus Executive Producer
Woody Nuss Engineer
Woody Nuss Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So Damn Happy based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
As impressive as Wainwright's work has been over the past 35 years, this live album shows that the burnish and perspective of age has only deepened the quality of his work. His songs, pose contrasts to brilliant dramatic and literary effect: humor against anger, a cappella singing against spoken interjections, creating a rich catalog of emotion from which he draws. Add a devoted crowd and the effortless musical backing of long-time friends (and family), and you get a live album that perfectly frames Wainwright's mastery as a singer, songwriter and stage performer. ¶ Wainwright's trademark humor is on full display, with his vision of Woody Allen's "Sleeper" future taken to the afterlife in "Heaven" ("There'll be lots of drinking in Heaven / Smoking, eating and sex / What you didn't do in this life bad for you / Will be totally cool in the next."). He pokes a sharp, ironic stick at file sharing ("Something for Nothing"), and revisits the tragedy of Tonya Harding ("Tonya's Twirls") in a song that, removed from its historical currency, is still surprisingly moving. Equally moving is the deeply sentimental autobiography of "The Picture," a lovely ode to his sister and their shared childhood. ¶ Wainwright's masterful stage presence, and the fluidity with which he sings, plays and interacts with the audience is truly staggering. The product of many, many nights just like these (taped in 2002 at Largo in Los Angeles, and the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, CA), Wainwright is completely effortless in the limelight. His accompanists (Van Dyke Parks on piano, David Mansfield on violin) and guests (Richard Thompson on guitar, and Martha Wainwright on vocals) weave their way perfectly in to his colorful tapestry. ¶ With a collection of his songs that stretches from the early 80s to the late 90s, this is a nice introduction to the last 20 years of Wainwright's writing and a singularly compelling look at his perfect showcase, the stage.