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Martha Wainwright: Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright: Martha Wainwright

Release Date:2005

By Marc Hirsh | Posted 5/11/2005

The first 10 seconds of Martha Wainwright’s full-length debut opening track, “Far Away,” feature nothing but her tremulous voice, which combines the delicacy of Tanya Donelly, the phrasing of Kim Carnes, and the world-weariness of Marianne Faithfull. By the end of the track, Wainwright has used the repetition found in the lines “And the birds they sing and they sing and they sing/ And the dogs they bark and they bark and they bark and they bark” to lose herself in the delirium of her own song. And with that, Martha Wainwright renders the singer’s family tree irrelevant (yes, father Loudon, brother Rufus, too).

There’s nothing tentative about the album—maybe some missteps (the ill-fitting art-rock sweep and lyrical venom of “Ball and Chain,” the mundane Oprah references in “TV Show”), but they arise out of boldness, not uncertainty. Wainwright hits her mark more often than not, and her brooding Daniel Lanois-style production provides a perfect backdrop for songs ranging from the folky pop of “Factory” and “When the Day Is Short” to the stripped-bare century-old Vaughan Williams/Robert Louis Stevenson hymn “Whither Must I Wander” to the gorgeous, melancholy “Don’t Forget.” “Fall it cools, winter it snows/ Spring it rains, summer comes/ And you go,” she sings, and her voice matches the words hurt for hurt.

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