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Martha Wainwright

+ {The Wainwright Sisters}

Things can’t be too bad – at least on a musical level – if you’re parents are LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III and KATE McGARRIGLE, plus you have an equally famous older sibling RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (not forgetting auntie SLOAN WAINWRIGHT), but who knows how tough it was after the Canadian folk celebrities divorced in 1977.
Born May 8, 1976 in Montreal, Quebec, Martha was reluctant at first to take up her musical mantle/legacy, although it was clear from early on that there was an abundance of talent. Regaining confidence through her time spent studying drama at Montreal’s Concordia University, she slowly began to write the odd song or three, while those that saw her perform at coffeehouses and bars (she produced a demo tape `Ground Floor’ in 1997) encouraged her to take a more serious approach. When brother Rufus invited Martha to support him as backing on his stage shows, she took the step of playing a part in stage musical Largo; her inaugural release was an eponymous EP in 1999.
While taking up residence in New York, she met in-session producer Brad Albetta who worked with her on her long-awaited debut album, also entitled MARTHA WAINWRIGHT (2005) {*7}; she married her beau in September 2007. Although there were obvious shades of her mother (of KATE & ANNA McGARRIGLE fame), Martha’s dramatic, folky show-tune introspection shined through in gems like `Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ (her first single), `Factory’, `These Flowers’, `Don’t Forget’ and the climactic re-working of Vaughan Williams’ `Whither I Must Wander’. In 2006, Martha featured on SNOW PATROL’s hit `Set The Fire…’, a slight indie-pop diversion but a useful addition to her eclectic CV.
I KNOW YOU’RE MARRIED BUT I’VE GOT FEELINGS TOO (2008) {*7} regained the spotlight for her VEGA-meets-LAUPER (yes, Cyndi!) life portraits, her skill at defining relationships into graceful vignettes was alluring; `Bleeding Over You’, `Comin’ Tonight’ and `The George Song’ were rich picking from these grandiose arrangements, although the need for two stuck-on karaoke cuts of PINK FLOYD’s `See Emily Play’ and EURYTHMICS’ `Love Is A Stranger’ was a tad ill-advised and unnecessary.
If there was any proof needed of her adaptability, dexterity or leanings, 2009’s self-indulgent but showbiz-y SANS FUSILS, NI SOULIERS, A PARIS: MARTHA WAINWRIGHT’S PIAF RECORD {*6} stamped her proverbial passport in full by way of a whole set of Edith Piaf covers, including Gallic staples (one surmises) `Une Enfant’, `Le Chant D’Amour’ and `Non, La Vie N’est Pas Triste’. The following year (on January 18), Martha suffered the loss of her mother from cancer. But then giving birth to her son, Arcangelo, almost 3 months premature (on November 19), took precedence in her rollercoaster life.
Time to reflect on these events, 2012’s COME HOME TO MAMA {*7} was a wide-ranging and soul-searching album. Produced by CIBO MATTO’s Yuka Honda and supported by friends SEAN LENNON (bass), WILCO’s Nels Cline (guitar) and DIRTY THREE’s Jim White (drums), the folk-rock element was somewhat amiss in view of her emotional baggage within; the exceptions coming through the reflective `Proserpina’ and `Leave Behind’. Martha’s talent was to shine through on the intimate `I Am Sorry’, `All Your Clothes’ and `Can You Believe It’, three songs that might’ve been hits a few decades back had they been released by MARIA McKEE or BELINDA CARLISLE.
Coalescing new-found domesticity with her singer-songwriter career would be a hard task, and to take some of the pressure off her shoulders, half-sibling LUCY WAINWRIGHT ROCHE was lured in for a WAINWRIGHT SISTERS collaboration, SONGS IN THE DARK (2015) {*7}. Reflections of their times growing up in public with different mothers, several songs/lullabies were gleaned from their parents and trad outlets, wherein covers of RICHARD THOMPSON’s `End Of The Rainbow’, TOWNES VAN ZANDT’s `Our Mother The Mountain’, ROSALIE SORRELS’ `Baby Rocking Medley’ and PAUL SIMON’s `El Condor Pasa’ (among others), entwined, full-circle, the riches of yesteryear.
Turning 40, MARTHA WAINWRIGHT was back on her solo campaign trail by way of 2016’s GOODNIGHT CITY {*7}. Comprising a dozen brand new tracks produced live(!) by both hubby Brad, and Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett (they also provided bass and keys respectively), she candidly admitted to having fun along the way. Re-arranging tracks, once the property of brother Rufus, GLEN HANSARD, BETH ORTON, MICHAEL ONDAATJE and tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus, an emotionally raw and introspective Martha was focusing on taking her music to new pastures, pastures that she’d never explored previously (examples `Take The Reins’, `Around The Bend’, `So Down’ and the lilting `Before The Children Came Along’).
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Nov2016

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