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Pop Music Review

Another Talented Wainwright Shows She Has a Passion for Folk

September 13, 1999|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Lasting musical legacies are hard enough to come by. Loudon Wainwright III's may well be as much for his children as for his music. His son, Rufus Wainwright, recently emerged as an acclaimed master of lush, knowing pop. And at the Troubadour on Friday, daughter Martha Wainwright revealed her own smart and passionate folk. (Of course, Loudon isn't the only contributor here: The mother of both is singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle.)

Martha was the opening act for her father's headlining show. And for both of them, the emotional highlight was their joint performance of "Father-Daughter Dialogue," a duet that was stripped of pretense and cleverness, exploring responsibility, expectations and disappointment.

Earlier in the evening, Martha's own hourlong set was simple and direct, with confident, introspective vocals set against the delicate, moody picking of her acoustic guitar. She was accompanied by cousin Lily Lanken on subtle backing vocals.

Like her father, Martha, 23, did not miss the backing of a full band, finding enough musical richness with her own guitar playing, which was simple but inventive. Dressed in denim overalls, she also shared some of her father's humor, but leaned more toward music and lyrics that were naked and soulful.

Loudon, 53, turned again on Friday to his crowd-pleasing, talking-blues comedy, built on quick wordplay and turning cliches back on themselves. But as fans shouted song titles at him, he also performed several heartfelt songs on relationships between lovers, siblings, parents and children.

He also did his jokey song about ice skater Tonya Harding, taken from his recent "Social Studies" album, which poked good-natured fun without ignoring a sad, underlying truth.

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