High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project

High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project

by Loudon Wainwright III

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Charlie Poole (1892-1931) was a hard-living, plain-singing, banjo-picking raconteur, amateur baseball player, mill worker, boozer, and bootlegger whose name may not be as well known as, say, Jimmie Rodgers or the Carter Family, but who nonetheless helped define what country music later became. Poole's


Charlie Poole (1892-1931) was a hard-living, plain-singing, banjo-picking raconteur, amateur baseball player, mill worker, boozer, and bootlegger whose name may not be as well known as, say, Jimmie Rodgers or the Carter Family, but who nonetheless helped define what country music later became. Poole's recordings for Columbia Records, with a group he called the North Carolina Ramblers -- he was born and resided in the state -- have probably never been heard even by most who set foot in the Country Music Hall of Fame (he has yet to be inducted), but for a relatively small cadre in the know, Poole is a giant. Loudon Wainwright III is one of the believers, and along with producer Dick Connette and a handful of collaborators (including Chaim Tannenbaum, David Mansfield, and Geoff Muldaur), Wainwright built this album around both old songs associated with Poole and new ones that help move the Poole story forward for today's world. Poole was not primarily a songwriter; he took what he heard elsewhere and bent it to his will. But he had an inimitable populist style, a whole lot of attitude and charisma, and the kind of sly humor that a sly humorist like Wainwright certainly can embrace. Of the 30 tracks spread across these two discs, all but nine were found among Poole's own, relatively small catalog. (Those who want to investigate should pick up the collection You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music.) Without attempting to replicate the acoustic string band sound of the '20s and early '30s, Wainwright gets to the heart of songs such as "I'm the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World," "Moving Day" (with the Roches on background vocals), "The Letter That Never Came," and "Mother's Last Farewell Kiss," tunes that Poole waxed and which, in the hands of Wainwright, manage to open a window into the Depression-era life while remaining viable to contemporary ears. A sprightly "The Deal," known as "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues" in Poole's hands, features the always mind-boggling mandolin playing of Chris Thile, and seemingly the entire Wainwright clan (including Rufus and Martha on "Only Old and in the Way") aids elsewhere. Loudon's new songs are intended not so much to conform to Poole's style (although they do that, too) as to embellish upon it. "Way Up in NYC" tells of the trip that Poole and his band took up north to the alien big city to cut records for Columbia, while "No Knees" finds him wondering -- presumably before it killed him -- what effect all the alcohol is having on him. The set's opening number and title track, "High Wide & Handsome," is another paean to living the high life that Poole probably would have endorsed. If even ten percent of those who hear Wainwright's tribute to this criminally under-recognized pioneer seek out the originals, then Wainwright will have accomplished his goal. Those who don't can just bask in some first-class Americana.

Product Details

Release Date:
Storysound Records

Related Subjects


Disc 1

  1. High Wide & Handsome
  2. Took My Gal out Walkin'
  3. I'm the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World
  4. My Mother and My Sweetheart
  5. Bill Mason's Bride
  6. Goodbye Booze
  7. Old Ballyhoo
  8. Little Waterloo
  9. I'm Glad I'm Married
  10. Mother's Last Farewell Kiss
  11. Acres of Diamonds
  12. Way Up in NYC
  13. If I Lose
  14. The Great Reaping Day
  15. Where the Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight

Disc 2

  1. The Man in the Moon
  2. The Deal
  3. No Knees
  4. Moving Day
  5. Old and Only in the Way
  6. Ragtime Annie
  7. Sweet Sunny South
  8. The Letter That Never Came
  9. Awful Hungry Hash House
  10. Rowena
  11. Didn't He Ramble
  12. Ramblin' Blues
  13. Charlie's Last Song
  14. Beautiful
  15. High Wide & Handsome (Reprise)

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Loudon Wainwright   Primary Artist,Banjo,Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Geoff Muldaur   Banjo
Michael Davis   Trombone
Peter Ecklund   Trumpet,Human Whistle
Erik Friedlander   Cello
Dan Levine   Trombone,Euphonium
David Mansfield   Bass,Dobro,Mandolin,Violin,Background Vocals
Ben Perowsky   Drums
Suzzy Roche   Background Vocals
Marcus Rojas   Tuba
Chaim Tannenbaum   Banjo,Guitar,Harmonica,Mandolin,Vocals,Background Vocals
Terre Roche   Background Vocals
Dave Roche   Background Vocals
Paul Woodiel   Violin
Martha Wainwright   Background Vocals
Rufus Wainwright   Background Vocals
Maggie Roche   Vocals,Background Vocals
Chris Thile   Mandolin,Background Vocals
Sloan Wainwright   Background Vocals
Dick Connette   Cymbals,Bass Drums,Background Vocals
Paul Asaro   Piano
Stefan Schatz   Drums
Matt Munisteri   Banjo,Guitar
Tim Luntzel   Bass
Dan "D Unit" Levine   Trombone,Euphonium
Rayna Gellert   Violin
Danielle Farina   Viola
Rob Moose   Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Violin,national steel guitar,Guitar (Tenor)
Wade Schuman   Harmonica
C.J. Camerieri   Trumpet,French Horn
Lucy Roche   Vocals,Background Vocals
Dana Lyn   Violin
Gabriel Kahane   Piano
Dave Roche   Background Vocals
Michael Davis   Trombone

Technical Credits

Geoff Muldaur   Arranger
Loudon Wainwright   Composer,Liner Notes,Photo Courtesy
W.C. Handy   Composer
Jeff Cook   Engineer
Paul Dresser   Composer
Peter Ecklund   Whistle
Scott Lehrer   Engineer
Stewart Lerman   Engineer
David Mansfield   String Arrangements
Johnny Lee Schell   Engineer
Andrew B. Sterling   Composer
Harry Von Tilzer   Composer
Terre Roche   Vocal Arrangements
R.E. Winsett   Composer
Greil Marcus   Liner Notes
Jack Norworth   Composer
Dick Connette   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Liner Notes,Vocal Arrangements,Song Notes
Albert Von Tilzer   Composer
Will Handy   Composer
Matt Munisteri   Arranger
Traditional   Composer
Kinney Rorrer   Liner Notes,Photo Courtesy
Rob Moose   Arranger
Alex Venguer   Engineer
Rufus K. Stanley   Composer
C.J. Camerieri   Brass Arrangment
P.J. Downey   Composer
Max Sturm   Composer
L.T. Billings   Composer
Jean C. Havez   Composer
J. Fred Helf   Composer
E.P. Moran   Composer
Bret Harte   Composer
Barney Elliot Warren   Composer
R. E. Winsett   Composer

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