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Singer-Songwriter roundup

Rented from the public library (because I can't afford to buy as many CDs right now as I've done in the past few months):

Genius by Warren Zevon. I'm a bit disappointed by this one, to be honest. Zevon has an excellent reputation as a songwriter, but on the basis of this nearly career-spanning retrospective, I don't think he lived up to it. There are some good songs on there, especially 1988's "Boom Boom Mancini" with its bluesy touches, 1991's carnivalesque "Mr. Bad Example" and 1978's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" but like the Bruce Cockburn retrospective I rented a year or so ago, many of the songs are marred by sugary arrangements and the limitations of Zevon's voice. I'll explore his work a little further by listening to the albums that the best songs on this record came from but I don't expect to discover another artist of Richard Thompson's caliber.
Little Ship by Loudon Wainwright III. I'm a huge Loudon fan already so I was bound to like it. It's not his best: both the album's predecessor Grown man and the recent Last Man on Earth are stronger overall. The songs repeat themes Wainwright has visited time and again without adding much in the way of new ideas, and the arrangements are at times a little too clever for their own good. Indeed the two songs from Little Ship that made it to the live album So Damn Happy, "So Damn Happy" and "Primrose Hill", sound much better in the stripped-down, guitar-and-vocal version offered there. Nevertheless, Little Ship is well-crafted, pleasing to the ear and recommended for anyone who likes Wainwright's other stuff. And "What Are Families For" is a great, great song.

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