Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Album Review: Rufus Wainwright – Folkocracy

2 min read
Album Review: Rufus Wainwright - Folkocracy

Rufus Wainwright has worn many hats throughout his musical career. As the son of musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarridge, the expanse of his artistry is of little surprise. The Canadian-American singer-songwriter and composer has recorded tracks for several films and supplied music for dance and theatre productions, all while composing two classical operas and releasing eleven studio albums – his newest being Folkocracy. Rufus has been long celebrated for his originality as a songwriter and as a vocalist, with the latter highlighted on his 15-track collaborative record of reimagined folk classics.

In opening track Alone, Rufus and American singer-songwriter Martha Cunningham take turns to portray a haunting experience of loneliness over an unaccompanied guitar melody. Only brushing paths for the closing lines of the track, it is a composition with a careful use of space that accentuates the vocal capabilities of the pair. Second track Heading for Home features John Legend for a heartfelt duet that combines a wistful string arrangement and relaxed banjo plucking to evoke a sense of countryside nostalgia. Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) invites Susanna Hoffs, Chris Stills and Sheryl Crow to change the pace and transport listeners into the world of sixties folk pop with tight harmonies, warm acoustic guitar strumming and glimmering harpsichord. The record makes its way back to traditional folk on Down In The Willow Garden featuring American singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, a chilling tale of a man facing execution following the murder of his lover.

Shenandoah is Rufus’ first solo piece on the album. “Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you,” he croons over carefully positioned piano, strings and acoustic guitar. Nacht und Träume follows as another solo, a delicate hymn accompanied by piano. Further into the record are a few particularly unique additions. Rufus invites Nicole Scherzinger to perform Hawaiian patriotic song Kaulana Nā Pua, and his sisters Martha and Lucy Wainwright for a solemn interpretation of traditional lullaby Hush Little Baby. Rufus does seem to perceive genre as a limitation, especially when it comes to collaborators. Chaka Khan is featured on a melodic rendition of Cotton Eyed Joe inspired by a soulful Nina Simone cover. It is consistent with the simplicity of many of the songs included on the record, as their vocals are complemented by a single piano number.

Differing from the opera and pop sounds that Rufus has found his footing in, Folkocracy is a return home. Ahead of turning fifty, he embraces his family’s folk roots to deliver a sincere project with a strong sense of musical community. As such, Rufus has traversed the genre with his selections – some of which date back to the 19th century. Though the album is largely thematically unrelated, it gives a broad introduction to folk music with the inclusion of different narratives. At the heart of it, it is a pleasant listen that gives insight into what sounds the artist can attribute to home, giving it a personal and sentimental quality.