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The Last Man on Earth ()

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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. ~ Daniel Browne, Rovi Hide synopsis

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