Review: Loudon Wainwright as dance band crooner on new album

This cover image released by Thirty Tigers shows “I’d Rather Lead A Band” by Loudon Wainwright III. (Thirty Tigers via AP)

Loudon Wainwright III with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, “I’d Rather Lead a Band” (Thirty Tigers)

On the aptly titled “I’d Rather Lead a Band,” Loudon Wainwright III embraces a role even more retro than the one he has carved out as an old-fashioned troubadour, putting his guitar aside to join the ’20s — the 1920s.

Wainwright makes like a dance band crooner as he revives material by Irving Berlin, Fats Waller and Frank Loesser, among others. For any kids who might listen, this is their great-great-grandparents’ music, which explains the reference to a Gatling gun.

Wainwright is ably backed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and while the band is tight, old Loudo is loose. He hams it up with the same comic timing that has served his own songs so well for the past half century. That makes him the ideal interpreter of “I’m Going to Give It to Mary With Love,” a lascivious, hilarious obscurity that would make Cardi B blush.

Some of the other songs are more familiar, including “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Heart and Soul,” and just about everything swings thanks to arrangements highlighted by muted horns, creamy winds and lots of hi-hat. Wainwright sings about fidelity, forgiveness and the consequences of a kiss, which shows the romance dance hasn’t changed much in the past century or so.