Martha Wainwright – I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too (2008): Review

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Produced by Brad Albetta, Martin Terefe, Tore Johansson, Jeff Trott and Kate McGarrigle
Label – Maple Music/Zoe Records

In an interview with BBC radio’s Simon Mayo, one could almost hear the audible sigh as Martha fielded the inevitable family lineage questions that seem to haunt her very appearance in a room full of hacks. Unlike any of the Wainwright’s, the 32 year old singer/songwriter has the burden of association, and no ‘brush off’ or diversionary tactics can avoid the “What was Louden like?”, or “What about your brother’s view on…?” questions. Her self titled debut album from 2006 probably fueled the fire; the raw folk sound filled with barbed references to her father, and for all the positive acclaim, the inevitable critical view was that it was a record grounded in family recollections. For her follow up, the adulterously entitled “I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too”, she’s understandably distanced herself from the familial past, both lyrically and musically, and inevitably captured a confident mix of folk, pop and rock which reflects a songwriter who has found her artistic calling on her own terms, and for that reason, allied with her beautifully original voice, she’s created one of the highlights of 2008.

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Freshly married, one would assume that all is sweetness and light in the world of Wainwright. Cunningly, Martha knows that songs of marital bliss won’t enhance her reputation, and so she trawls the dramas of embittered break ups, scornful swipes at the object of her ‘bleeding’ desire, the cheating lover, and the dishonourable cad. She’s vengeful on the memorable “Comin’ Tonight”, there’s betrayal hidden in the strident pop hook of “You Cheated Me”, and heartfelt yearning in the opener, “Bleeding All Over You”. Centre stage is Wainwright’s voice, a soaring, multi tracked howl from the Heavens, flitting from sweet teen temptress to hardened MILF in an instant. Her sense of harmony is outstanding throughout, effortlessly sweeping through octaves to add luscious depth to the simplest melody. The self analytical “So Many Friends” perfectly exemplifies this, impressively showcasing an individual ability to draw the listener in to a world of shadowy regret via the riveting rise and fall of her vocal performance. One can even forgive the one moment of self indulgence. Her take on the LSD fueled Pink Floyd classic “See Emily Play” sounds like a demo, and should have been considered strictly B-side material only. The cast list (including brother Rufus, Pete Townshend, and Donald Fagen) endorse the album perfectly, never letting their legendary ability overshadow what is undoubtedly Martha’s benchmark performance.

As musical breakouts go “I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too” heralds Martha Wainwright’s second coming with an original sound, style and delivery, but most importantly rare lyrical and vocal passion, intimacy and articulacy. Forget the family ties, she’s got her own agenda now, and it’s bloody interesting.

8/10

Track Rating
1 Bleeding All Over You (9)
2 You Cheated Me (8)
3 Jesus and Mary (8)
4 Comin’ Tonight (9)
5 Tower Song (7)
6 Hearts Club Band (8)
7 So Many Friends (10)
8 In the Middle of the Night (7)
9 The George Song (7)
10 Niger River (7)
11 Jimi (8)
12 See Emily Play (5)
13 I Wish I Were (7)

Bleeding All Over You

Comin’ Tonight

So Many Friends

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