tue 23/04/2024

CD: Martha Wainwright - Come Home to Mama | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Martha Wainwright - Come Home to Mama

CD: Martha Wainwright - Come Home to Mama

Rufus's sister almost delivers the album we've been waiting for

Wainwright: Mama's back

Motherhood doesn’t always bring out the best in singer-songwriters. On the album Aerial Kate Bush, for instance, sings “luverly luverly luverly Bertie…you give me so much joy/ and then you give me more joy”. Yeuch. So when I heard that recent mum Martha Wainwright’s new album was to be called Come Home to Mama my heart sank. It needn’t have. If there’s one thing this album isn’t, it’s sickly.

The title actually comes from “Proserpina", the album's only cover and the last song her mother, Kate McGarrigle, wrote before her death in 2010. In Roman mythology Proserpina was condemned to live the winter months with the king of the Underworld but in summer came back to her mother, Hera. McGarrigle's song is a beautiful evocation of the ties that bind and separation that exists between people. Her daughter's reading is the standout track of the album.

The rest is a mixed bag. At the top there’s some of her best work: “Can You Believe It” sounds almost like one of George Harrison’s, “Four Black Sheep” has a mystical magical flavour and “Leave Behind” is full of aching emotion. Also, where she doesn’t overdo her Martha-isms the voice is wonderfully intimate and direct. This feeling of being a personal confidante is further amplified by searingly honest lyrics. Not only is there a sense of her bereavement and of new life but we are also privy to Wainwright’s struggle to make a marriage work: make-up sex, she tells us on "Can You Believe It", is the only sex she gets.  

But, elsewhere, there is a sense of incompleteness. “I am Sorry” or “I Wanna Make an Arrest” feel like they would have benefited from additional input. Or maybe it’s our expectations of Wainwright that are too high. People are forever comparing her to her parents and brother. But really the most daunting comparison is with the songs she first gave us herself: the brilliant “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole” and “Factory.” She’s getting close to making entire albums that good. But she’s still a fraction off.

Where she doesn’t overdo her Martha-isms the voice is wonderfully intimate and direct

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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