Martha Wainwright: Come Home to Mama
From the opening notes of “I Am Sorry,” it’s clear that Come Home to Mama is a bit of a departure for Martha Wainwright. It has been three years since her last album, a tribute to Edith Piaf, with her last studio album of original material coming out in 2008. Since then, she has gone through many transformative experiences, including the death of her mother (acclaimed folk musician Kate McGarrigle) and the birth of her son.
The past few years have led up to Come Home to Mama, a record defined by its brutal honesty, rather than one genre or another. Wainwright’s previous albums have remained closer to her folk roots, but this flirts with some funk, soul, and good old-fashioned pop. Recording in Sean Lennon’s home studio has let Wainwright hone in on the sound she wanted.
Wainwright has a kittenish, girly voice by default, allowing her to flippantly capture dark moments, such as a propensity for breakup sex (“Can You Believe It?”). However, she’s not to be underestimated. Effortlessly she runs through scales in “Radio Star,” and the vintage, soulful “Some People” lets her show off an incredible range without seeming flashy.
For my personal taste, I think the album has a bit too many electronic elements that become distracting from Wainwright’s true talents. Though “Proserpina” is a cover of one of her mother’s songs, Wainwright’s voice sweeps through the lyrics delicately, with the true emotion of a mother and daughter. Similarly, “All Your Clothes” has a classic sound and heartbreaking lyrics such as “The baby’s fine/My marriage is failing, but I keep trying.”
No doubt there will always be comparison between Wainwright and her famous relatives, including father Loudon Wainwright III and brother Rufus. However, Martha really deserves to be known for her own name, her own sound, and her own boldness.