CD Review of I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too by Martha Wainwright
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Rounder/ZOE
Martha Wainwright:
I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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P
oor Martha Wainwright. They haven’t sold a ton of records, but her family is full of musicians who have been making critics go squirrelly with delight for decades – including her dad Loudon, brother Rufus, mother Kate McGarrigle, and aunt Anna McGarrigle. Coming up in that kind of shadow is enough to make a person spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about her motives for getting into the family business – or drive that person to craft a debut album so raw it practically bleeds out of the CD player. Martha’s guilty on both counts: One of her first recordings was a ballad…written about her father…titled “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.” And as to the issue of motives, Martha admits in this album’s press kit that, up ‘til now, she’s often wondered if her decision to pursue music was the product of desire or nepotism – and whether she’d ever measure up to her more famous family members.

In all honesty, she probably won’t, but that’s to be expected – her mother and aunt are folk royalty, her dad has more than three decades of classic songs under his belt, and her brother has done wonders for baroque pop since making his debut a decade ago. Martha’s confessional pop songs, in comparison, are relatively ordinary – but that’s far from a bad thing.

Fans who purchased Wainwright’s 2005 self-titled debut will notice that for the follow-up, I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too, she has added a spoonful of sugar to her sound. Where her previous outing was stark and direct, Feelings has just enough pop gloss to make it a viable contender among the Starbucks crowd – folks who just want to sip the record down with a glass of Chablis without bothering to notice that, say, “In the Middle of the Night” is about Kate McGarrigle’s brush with cancer. The material is also less confrontational – there certainly isn’t a “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” in the bunch – but it hasn’t lost any of the fresh-from-the-diary emotion of her debut.

Martha Wainwright

She’s a solid songwriter, but Wainwright’s voice is still her biggest asset, and she lets it run wild here; though a decent chunk of the album finds her sticking to traditional pop scales, on a few numbers (such as “Tower Song”), she drops her leash and goes whooping into Kate Bush-esque histrionics. Here, your mileage will vary wildly; depending on your feelings about this kind of stuff, you may find it unbearably annoying, the primary source of the album’s personality. or both. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to argue the necessity of these moments – where songs such as “Bleeding All Over You” and “You Cheated Me” showcase a songwriter sharpening her tools, the more over-the-top vocal showcases feel self-indulgent (albeit impressively so).

If cameo appearances are your thing, Feelings has a bunch of ‘em, including guest spots from Donald Fagen, Garth Hudson, Pete Townshend, and Martha’s brother and mother (the latter appears on a pleasant, if utterly unnecessary, cover of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”). For better or worse, the spotlight remains on Martha – and the end result is a second album that, though certainly uneven, builds a compelling argument another career artist bearing the Wainwright name.

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