Oh Martha

‘Intense and personal,’ is how Martha Wainwright, daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle and brother of Rufus, described her approach to song writing and performance in Wexford.

Bookending the Spiegeltent Festival, Wainwright, about whom I previouslu knew precious little, was phenomenal, in a sort of what you see is what you get type of way. Feisty and energetic, her voice has the crescendo bark of a wounded animal, and her syllables soar and extinguish like spent meteors.

Wexford was a launch pad for new work, most of which she didn’t introduce with a title, but she also dipped into a classic repertoire, with a powerful rendition of Everything Wrong, literally sculpting the lyrics with venom:

‘My husband’s been lyin’ and cheatin’

I turned my cheek and reason

I change my tune every day’

At heart, Wainwright is a storyteller, and each song is preceded by a walking preamble, occasionally too long, as in Radio Star, but when she finally switches gear, and croons

I’m at the controls in the big old chair

Nothing has changed except the atmosphere

the magic is instant, passionate and animated, and her choice of mood and rhetorical affect produces that grimace of a fallen angel, a seductive combination in her performance of Jesus & Mary.

She’s the jewel in your crown

But I’m the goal that’s gonna weigh you down

I’ll keep you around this dirty old town.’

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