Monday, 27 July 2015

Martha My Dear

The name Wainwright should be familiar to anyone who has even a passing interest in music. Martha Wainwright is the daughter of folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and the sister of Rufus. I'm a fan of her honest, candid songs and distinctive voice.

In 1997, aged 21, she released her debut album, the cassette-only 'Ground Floor', in her native Canada. It should have bring a springboard for a successful career, displaying as it did her talent for songwriting and performing. However, it took a full eight years for her follow-up to appear. When it did, the critics went wild. The eponymously-titled record was considered her proper debut and contained a new version of its predecessor's opening track Don't Forget. I've always preferred the original though and it remains one of my faves. The album also contained the awesomely-titled Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, a barbed comment at her father and his habit of writing songs about his family rather than looking after them. But it's Maker that stands out for me, a brilliant track that swoops and soars majestically and gracefully above the others.

By the time her next album came out in 2008 - t
he mischievously-titled 'I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too' - Martha was able to rope in such luminaries as Pete Townshend, Donald Fagen and Garth Hudson, as well as her mum, aunt and brother. While there was evidence of a shift away from folk and more into a pop/rock direction, the songs were still strong, in particular the single You Cheated Me and Comin' Tonight, my personal favourite, and one in which Martha's voice really shines. 2012's 'Come Home To Mama', continued the move into the pop arena, but is notably darker and more experimental in mood. This might be attributed to the death of her mother two years earlier, and it doesn't always make for easy listening. Despite this, she sounds more assured than  ever, even if her lyrics seem to suggest otherwise: "I really like make-up sex / It's the only kind I ever get."

Of course, her most commercially successful moment came as guest vocalist on Snow Patrol's Set The Fire To The Third Bar, but it's clear she's worthy of the acclaim she's garnered on her own. She never rushes things so it's difficult to say when her next album will materialise, but I'll be interested to hear where her sound is heading.


Here's Martha giving a spine-tingling rendition of Nick Cave's The Ship Song. Tissues at the ready:

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