Loudon Wainwright III to bring Loud & Rich Tour to Atlanta

Loudon Wainwright III won a 2009 Grammy for his old-time country album “High, Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.” It was a nifty feat for the songwriter-singer-actor maybe best known for his one and only radio hit, 1973’s “Dead Skunk.”

Since the ’70s, though, Wainwright has put out dozens of recordings, creating a remarkable collection of songs that feature his sly observations and self-lacerating wit. And he has taken several turns as an actor, going back to his regular appearances on the TV series “M*A*S*H” and most recently a role in the movie “Knocked Up.”

With “High, Wide and Handsome,” Wainwright returned to his roots in the folk revival of the ’60s, reworking songs made famous by Poole, a popular North Carolina singer and banjo player of the 1920s. In addition, Wainwright contributed several of his own songs, written in the Poole style. The album also includes contributions from Wainwright’s three children, musicians Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche.

Wainwright will stop in Atlanta on April 20 as part of the Loud & Rich Tour with his friend British singer-songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson.

Recently, Wainwright called from his home in Long Island to talk about his newest album, "10 Songs for the New Depression,” and other musical matters.

Q. What’s the story behind “10 Songs for the New Depression”?

A. As a kind of exercise, I decided to write some topical songs dealing directly with this recession we've been in. And I found two wonderful songs from the Great Depression, "On to Victory, Mr. Roosevelt" and "The Panic Is On," that fit right in.

Q. When did you learn to play the banjo?

A. I had a banjo in the mid-'60s when I was caught up as a teenage fan of the folk music boom. I had the Pete Seeger banjo book, and I could play a little bit. My former wife Kate McGarrigle was an excellent banjo player, and she taught me the style I do, which is called frailing. I don't play anything like Charlie Poole played. I don't sing anything like he sang either. But it works, I guess.

Q. Your mom came from Tifton, Ga. Did that side of the family influence your music?

A. As I get older, I become more interested in my ancestors and the world they came from. My mom was from the rural Deep South. That was a connection for me with the Charlie Poole thing. There's a song on the album called "Rowena" based on some courting letters my maternal grandfather wrote to the woman who would become my grandmother. He was in Valdosta at that point.

Q. It’s amazing that three of your kids became successful musicians. What’s your take on that?

A. That's been great. Three out of four of my kids are earning a living in the music business. It's amazing except that their mothers are musicians. Genetically, the deck was stacked. I did a show on New Year's Eve with Rufus and Lucy. It's fun to get together and play.

Q. Now you’re touring with Richard Thompson. How did you guys get to know each other?

A. We've had a working friendship for over 30 years. He's played on several of my records and produced a couple of them in the mid-'80s. Most recently, he played on "Strange Weirdos," the record I did for the "Knocked Up" movie. We did a bunch of Loud & Rich shows in the fall and had a ball.

Q. Between the two of you, there’s not much partying and carrying on, is there?

A. There are a lot of discussions about where we're going to go to get the best cappuccino. Richard is a coffee hound. But we're not crawling around bars, that's for sure.

Concert preview

Loud & Rich — Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson. 8 p.m. April 20. Tickets: $30 advance/$32.50 day of show. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta, 404-524-7354.