I’m In The Hearts Club Band

There’s a rush, when we touch.

Martha Wainwright

So Many Friends

It’s been awhile but it’s time for another CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand Live Blog.  I have to admit I am more familiar with the work of Rufus Wainwright than that of his little sister Martha, but it is her December 12th, 2009 performance in Montreal that I am interested in today.  Being the daughter of two well known musicians, and the sister of another would cetainly aid in the career of a young singer-songwriter.  But Martha has certainly carved out a nice niche for herself away from the family.  In this concert we are apparently going to be blessed with an appearance by Kate McGarrigle, Martha’s mom, and her aunt Anna. There will also be some Christmas fare.  Let’s get to the music.

I Wish I Were gets us started with just Martha and an acoustic guitar. She is accompanied by a lot of yelling people in the crowd. She is beloved in Montreal (and a lot of other places). Her voice certainly reminds me of the great songstresses of the psychedelic and folk movements of the 60’s and 70’s.  It’s a classic sound that is beautiful and gritty all at the same time, like a tropical beach.  Indeed her voice overpowers anything her guitar does.  I can picture her prancing about the stage as she performs, though I’m not sure she actually does that, the song just gives the impression of a musician in motion.

Before Bleeding All Over You we get a nice little story about her travels and work en francais.  She must be in Montreal, a truly bilingual place. There are days when the cage doesn’t seem to open very wide at all. What a lovely line, I’ve had times like that.  Her songs are so whimsical, almost like they are blowing around in the breeze.  There is an interesting contrast between Martha’s voice and her backup singer Lily Lanken. I wish I could explain it but you’ll just have to listen yourself.

Coming Tonight starts out with a 50’s sci fi sound effect, and it occurs to me that Martha emits a sound that would be comfortable on vinyl.  I wonder if you can get her albums that way. She gets roaring applause for ending the song with coming tonight to my home town.

The drums kick off Hearts Club Band.  Martha is doing something musically that is a bit off the predominant indie, folk or pop modes of singing.  Although her songs would fit on a number of other band’s releases, Martha’s expressive singing is unique to her.  You’ve got the funniest smile I’ve ever seen.  This concert has already had a number of great lines and we are just getting warmed up. This song ends with some interesting use of apparently out of tune note combinations. I think it’s intentional. The value of that is the shock it causes our ears.

The crowd is excited about this one. It starts out like many  Dave Matthews Band song, but it’s So Many Friends.  This seems like a bitter sweet song, and I think Martha feels that way about it too.  I can’t make out every word because of the way she is almost cackling some lines.  I still love this vibe.  It’s just so different than other things out there, and in many ways reminiscent of an earlier sound.

Somewhat of a reminder that it’s Christmas, as the drums come up for Jesus and Mary.  This is a dark little song. It really should’ve been used in an episode of Due South. I love the atmosphere she creates, with dissonant guitar sounds. Rehersals must be a blast for this group. They seem like they love to play around in the music they are making.

I am going to wrap up Part I of this review with BMFA so look for Part II tomorrow.  Those letters stand for something I don’t want to publish on my blog, and are in reference to her father Loudon Wainwright III, who was apparently not a great dad.  I have no idea what that’s like because my dad rocks.  This is an angry song though, and Martha is not going to play around.

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