Album review: Martha Wainwright - Come Home To Mama

The most straight-talking of the Wainwright warblers gets distracted by the pop pound on an album exploring life’s big moments.

Written over a pivotal transition in her life - the birth of her first son Arcangelo, and the death of her mother, folk legend Kate McGarrigle, shortly after - Come Home To Mama finds Martha in reflective mood.

The blunt, visceral songwriting has been tempered with a silkier, pop aesthetic.

It’s perhaps producer Yuka Honda’s influence that provides quirky pop appeal, from the offbeat sounds of Some People (possibly with sedated theramin) and the taut, 80’s-influenced I Wanna Make An Arrest to the synth pinpricks shooting light through the widescreen swoon of Four Black Sheep.

Nevertheless her confessional, upfront lyricism survives here and there.

The bittersweet Can You Believe It is the Martha of old, brass and slide guitar lightly dressing acoustic guitar and opening with ‘I really like the make-up sex, its the only kind i ever get’.

Elsewhere, Proserpina is a poised, classic piano ballad that’s too restrained to get under the skin, but the plush title track is powered by soft piano, violins and Martha’s lovely voice, and Everything Wrong closes the set with profound lyrics and emotion.

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Its pop bent might rankle with diehard Martha fans, but this is a solid, if not exceptional, evolution.

3 stars

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