Answers Feb/Mar, Part III
5/8/2009 (updated 5/8/2009)

I've followed your music for 41 years. And so a belated 'thank you' is long overdue.
Re 'Calvary Cross' - what's a 'broom boy'? Like an 'umbrella man' as seen with Molly Dancers perhaps, but different? Watching you perform this epic, and listening to it here, it's exhausting. How do you manage this emotional tour de force night after night? It can't surely be just another song / another performance? You seem to 'inhabit' the piece - to give it your entire life for those minutes. Are you emotionally exhausted after it? I ask the same re 'Night Comes In'.

A broom boy, is, I believe, a boy with a broom - a young person employed to sweep a shop floor, or a hallway, or the street. Again, I believe the expression is Irish. Musicians train and practice for those emotional outpourings, so it's not as hard as it looks, like training for the marathon.

On a lighter note, will the mooted album with Iain Mathews take place do you think and finally, are we likely to see Christine Collister sing with you in due course? I ask because she seems to have retired or at least taken a couple of year off.

Not sure about either of those, but always a pleasure to work with Iain and Christine.

Incidentally, her shrink-to-fit purple/pink day-glo (or so it seemed) satin trousers she wore at the Hammersmith Palais gig all those years back is a lingering memory which even now detracts a little from the recollection of the music. Ah well. And thanks again for being you. Your music has dragged me back from the very brink more times than I care to remember. Really. Sincerely, Howard

I'm with you on the trousers.

Loudon, Wainwright's cd "recovery" is all different songs he wrote when he was much younger re-interpreted to the present. I know you put out the live cd " The Chrono Show" which featured newer interpretations of old songs, but that show seemed to be focused more on a variety of songs that were an overall sampling of your vast body of work, instead of new interpretations.

How is it when you play songs now that you wrote when you were in your twenties and thirties? I would imagine that your perceptions would change over time bringing new meanings to old songs. "Recovery" is remarkable for the different feelings you get from songs written from youth sung by a mature man. Of course Loudon's lyrics are pretty naked so a different meaning can't help but be gleaned. But how would say "Jet plane in a Rocking Chair" or of course "Old man inside a young man" be to sing now?

It is a strange thing about the singer/songwriter role, that you find yourself singing, sometimes on a nightly basis, songs you wrote 5, 10. 20. 40 years ago. And somehow you have to deal with that - I mean that the song might be immature, or fail to hold the same meaning for you now. I find with some often-requested songs that I have to forgive myself for who I was, and try to find something in the song that I can still latch onto, or indeed, reinterpret the song entirely.

Any thoughts on Snooks Eaglin? J Golbach

My sister's boyfriend, Richard Roberts-Miller (Muldoon) had a Snooks EP back in about 1961, so I can claim him as an early influence. His style was just unique, and I'll really miss seeing him at Jazzfest.

This is a religious question but I'm not asking it in a silly attempt to put you on the spot but rather as someone who has been put off from embracing Islam because muslims tell me that music is haram. When you became a muslim did this come up a lot for you and was there a standard 'defence'? For example, I know there is disagreement about it among muslims and that some of the hadith used in the debate are considered weak. Or did you put the whole question of music to one side where your religion was concerned? Stuart

In the world of Islam, you can find the whole range of attitudes to music. The puritans, like the Wahabbis and the Taleban, grab a lot of headlines these days, but I think the opinion of the majority is less severe. The Sufis generally have used music in a sacred way, but in the time of Abdal Qadir Al-Jilani, for instance, music was discouraged because it was associated with invocation of demons. In Pakistan, you have the whole range from ecstatic Qawwali to Taleban puritanism. The Qur'an says nothing about music, or any of the arts, and certainly doesn't forbid music; the hadith (traditions of the Prophet) say a few things, but there are some questionable traditions there. What is the Qur'an but the human heart externalized? To follow one's heart, one would say that that music is a natural, joyous human expression.

Besides commercial patronage, what do you think the fan owes the performer? What attitude would you like your audiences to approach your recorded and live music with? Are there audience/fan actions or statements you find particularly rewarding? Annoying? Looking forward to attending your shows in Nashville, Atlanta, and Knoxville. Warmest regards, Marcus Memor

There is a relationship, of course, but I think 'owes' is too strong a term. The musician hopes that he can find people who like his music, enough to come to a concert or to buy a CD. Beyond that - I don't know. Loyalty is a bonus, of course, but that has to be earned. I suppose an attitude of open-mindedness is what an artist would wish of the listener. It is always rewarding to hear that one's music means something in people's lives, or to be told that a certain musical idea or feeling has been communicated to the audience. Annoying audience traits: well, I can usually only see the front row, so anyone asleep, or looking at their watch, or the date dragged along against his/her will and looking utterly bored - I'd consider those as negatives, but minor quibbles - I love my audience.