As America climbs and claws its way toward election day, the power and importance of family has become something to soapbox about: Family is this! Family should be that! But no one in the world expresses the power of family as beautifully as a Wainwright can. Martha Wainwright’s new record, Come Home to Mama, illustrates the deep and intricate tangle of those whom she is connected to by blood and by love. It is also a timely demonstration of the power of women.
Following a series of extreme events – the birth of her son in the same month as the death of her mother Kate McGarrigle – Wainwright wanted a female producer to help craft this album. “I was dreading being in the studio and being ‘the chick,’” she says. Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda signed on to produce, and during recording “totally took care of [Wainwright] in this very maternal and sisterly way – which was exactly what [she] needed.” The strength of this collaboration is apparent. The lyrical content may be very exposed, acrid, and by Wainwright’s own admission, dramatically exaggerated, but the songs are never harsh. Instead, all this intensity is woven into softly epic tunes like the excellent “All Your Clothes,” or the whimsy-tinged “Leave Behind.”
Though each of Martha’s originals pack a punch, the sock to the gut is “Proserpina,” without question. Written and performed by McGarrigle during the last month of her life, Wainwright’s own rendition is stunning and completely heartbreaking. Like the album itself, the song is a reminder that whatever shape one’s family comes in, we remain connected to the ones we love through life and death.