Martha Wainwright comes from a long line of musicians, and their influence shows on her third solo album, Come Home to Mama. The daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, as well as the sister of Rufus, Wainwright has finally recorded an album as thoughtful and artistic as her roots.
It’s clear from opener “I Am Sorry”, with its seductive, sustained vocal holds, that Wainwright’s songwriting is now keeping pace with her vocal talent. Gone is the girlish pop of her previous records; Wainwright sounds confident here in a variety of styles, each running a simple three to four minutes before she’s off to another. She’s a vocal chameleon, much like her brother, sounding at times sultry, injured, or pensive, her trademark smoky alto curling up each note.
Lead single “Proserpina”, though not written by Wainwright, is a standout. Penned by the vocalist’s late mother McGarrigle, it tells a mythological tale of mothers and daughters, complete with haunting piano and a theatrical backing chorus. It’s a mark of Wainwright’s talent that her personality dissolves into the song, her delivery so measured that one pictures her an opera star, “Proserpina” an aria birthed delicately for an adoring audience.
Guests on Come Home include Nels Cline and Sean Lennon, but Wainwright is the star, cooing and gliding her way through tales about the challenges of love (“Some People”) and parenting (“Everything Wrong”). Whether anyone outside Wainwright’s devoted fanbase will take notice of the album is hard to say, but the world could use more pretty voices with smart ideas.
Essential Tracks: “Proserpina”, “I Am Sorry”