Martha Wainwright - Come Home To Mama (V2)

Born into a Canadian musical dynasty, Martha Wainwright was never short of inspiration growing up – her elder brother Rufus (whom you've surely heard of), her actor/singer father Loudon Wainwright III and her folk songwriter mother, Kate McGarrigle, all have had their own impressive careers. Martha's turn would come in 2005 with in her instantly classic eponymous debut. Living in the shadow of producing your best work first is never easy, and always being compared to that album is surely demoralising – that's not to say her following work wasn't good, it just wasn't the same calibre. Inspired by her familial relationships, motherhood, her marriage and the passing of her mother in 2010 have all made their mark on Martha's fourth LP, and with a veritable goldmine of material, can she woo us again with another instant classic?

Released Oct 15th, 2012 via V2 / By Larry Day
Martha Wainwright - Come Home To Mama (V2) Lead single 'Proserpina' is the final song written by Kate McGarrigle, telling the Roman myth of Proserpina's capture at the hands of underworld overlord Pluto and her mother Hera's subsequent retaliation – she made the seasons. It's a grandiose bout of achingly beautiful vocals and woebegone strings. There's a hinting of horn, delicate piano riffs and a chorus of folk singers all creating a full yet disparate texture. It won't rid your winter doldrums, that's for sure, but the maudlin elegance is still a flawless effort. 'All Your Clothes' adopts a glint of country in the jangling acoustic guitar and powerful vocals, as she showcases a more familiar style of graceful acoustic-folk. It's slightly bitter, peeling back the skin to reveal the cracks in her relationship (or a fictional one, which is completely plausible too). It's heartfelt, honest, and like a car wreck, you can't help but watch as the trauma unfolds.

At times the lyrics are scathingly honest: “My husbands' been lying and cheating,” on 'Everything Wrong' and “I really like make-up sex, it's the only kind I ever get,” on the opener, 'I Am Sorry'. There are plenty more examples, but this brutal honesty hits home, evoking the regret of your own past shortcomings. Come Home To Mama is an introspective rant, a cathartic album where Martha gets all this pent-up emotion of her chest in the most public way, complete with a bucketload of warbling for good measure.

'Radio Star' is an indie-rock slab of wonky guitars and frenetic vocals, recalling contemporary R&B and the oral flailing of ethereal recluse, Kate Bush. It's stuffed with energy to pep up the otherwise depressing record, and midway through the track, the indie-rock cascades into a cabaret-cum-blues breakdown briefly before bucking straight back into an accelerating, percussion-led final refrain. 'Four Black Sheep' utilises twinkling shards of frosty synth, to highlight Martha's stellar voice. With off-kilter rhythms and lashings of synthesizer, this quickly becomes one of the more avante-garde experiments from the singer-songwriter.

So then, is this Martha Wainwright's finest effort?

Unfortunately, no. It's by no means terrible, not in the slightest, and there's very little to find wrong with the record – but the self-titled Martha Wainwright was better. There's undoubtedly some of the finest moments of her careers here in 'Proserpina', but there's too few of them to make this anything more than just 'great'. Come Home To Mama is most definitely intimate, however. Lyrically it's incredible, but it would have been nice to hear a few more of those stunning ballads and maybe turn down that warble so we can hear the crystalline voice in it's natural habitat. Martha Wainwright is still an exceptional songsmith, and the record will satiate the thirst of her hungry fans, but it might not be a favourite among many.