The Wainwright family’s staggeringly rich contribution to music continues here with Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche’s gorgeous album of family songs remembered from their youth beautifully interwoven with smartly chosen folk standards.
Their voices - Martha’s a silken whisper, Lucy’s a bold, brilliant gem - are what ties this tender sojourn through birth, youth, love and loss together. Bound as tightly in harmony as they are in family, the Wainwright’s revival of lullabies that their respective mothers Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche sang to them in childhood is as haunting as it is endearing.
A sentimental journey, though, it isn’t – particularly when the sisters tackle Richard and Linda Thompson’s frankly brutal “The End of the Rainbow” (“There’s nothing to grow up for any more” a child is advised) and, continuing down the track of young innocents and what life may hold for them, the flippant, almost comical standard “Babyrocking Medley” which offers “This is the day we give babies away / With a half a pound of tea / You just open the lid and out pops the kid / With a twelve month guarantee”.
So, though these tales are born of childhood and rose-daubed memory it doesn’t necessarily make their content innocuous – it seems that the Wainwrights are well aware of the irony involved in the lyrical brutality of children’s songs and lullabies and deliver them with extra sweetness in order to make their point more eloquently.
Twin highlights here are the Terre Roche penned “Runs in the Family”, which marries a gorgeous, swooping melody to sad-eyed, simple lyrics (“My uncle did it, my daddy did it / I’m beginning to think it runs in the family” – bleak) and, rather more obviously, a stunning rendition of “El Condor Pasa” as popularized by Simon & Garfunkel – the sisters’ voices rising, bowing and passing through one another like near-imperceptible spirits.
As an indicator of the kind of music the Wainwrights indulged in at home while they and their many and various offspring went on to charm and dazzle the musical world, this is an invaluable document. For those who simply want a dazzling, slow sunset of a folk record with the occasional lyrical bite – the same applies.