Say this about the pandemic: There are now enough songs about Covid-19 to make for a pretty eclectic playlist. The track lineup would include T Turbo, Gunna and Young Thug’s chilled-out “Quarantine Clean,” Luke Combs’ forlorn “Six Feet Apart,” and Twenty One Pilots’ kitschy, almost romantic “Level of Concern.” If nothing else, the virus has found common ground between genres that otherwise would have barely much in common.
The next to land is “Town & Country” by longtime singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, veteran observer of his and everyday life as well as patriarch of a musical family that’s given us Rufus, Martha and Lucy. “Town & Country” brings yet another perspective to pandemic pop. Hunkered down most of the last two years on Long Island, Wainwright chronicles his return to New York City and the thrill of encountering renewed life there (at least, to whatever degree that still exists): Sirens! Drunks on the subway! “Behind those masks there’s all those faces,” he sings, “I’m so excited seeing parking spaces.”
Shying away from Wainwright’s often acoustic approach, “Town & Country” is set to a rousing arrangement featuring horns and even guitar and organ solos. You can almost feel the city come back to life in the music. As Wainwright sings, “My dear mother was afraid of the city/She said, ‘Don’t go there Loudie, it’s shady and its shitty’/She was raised in the country, what could that poor woman know?”
But as anyone who’s dined in one of those temporary outdoor restaurant sheds knows all too well, humans aren’t the only creatures lurking in those constructions. And sure enough, Wainwright encounters one of those smaller creatures — “a rat as big as a cat” — underneath the table, and back to the country he goes. With “Town & Country” — part of Wainwright’s forthcoming Lifetime Achievement album, due in August — we can add “sardonic folk” to the pandemic top 40.