Gleefully enduring dozens of self-inflicted wounds over the years courtesy of his rapier wit, withering cynicism, and apparent willingness to air out the worst of his many foibles if that will yield a clever lyric (as well as mercilessly skewering plenty of others, incidentally), Loudon Wainwright suddenly turned scholar and won a Grammy earlier this year. His epic High Wide & Handsome project about roguish old-time country singer, songwriter, and banjo picker Charlie Poole still had sufficient autobiographical implications to keep a team of Wainwright therapists busy for years. So naturally he abruptly switched gears and recorded 10 Songs for the New Depression (on his own Cummerbund label), this time reflecting in his own inimitable fashion on the woeful economy created by the pathetic clowns just swept back into office on the doubtful premise that they'll fix it. Although songs like "Times Is Hard" and "The Panic Is On," along with his spare delivery, certainly still capture the tenor of the times, there's a rare (for Loudon, anyway) glimmer of optimism that now seems dated in light of the Election Day debacle. In, for instance, "On to Victory, Mr. Roosevelt," a vintage song written in support of FDR's efforts to combat the Great Depression, Loudon added the line, "Mr. Obama, we're back of you 300 million strong," apparently not having anticipated Republican perniciousness or the irrational toxins of the Tea Party. Perhaps most telling is the rollicking little rag "Cash for Clunkers," which concludes: "It's hard to wrap your head around that health care coverage thing, but Cash for Clunkers you can kind of understand," stupidity and greed again winning the day, but providing lots of new fodder for Wainwright's acidic humor.
Tue., Nov. 23, 6 p.m., 2010