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Shoot The Guitar Player !
on 13 November 2009
Rufus does Garland : Martha does Piaf.
Seems like there might be a bit of a
symmetrical sibling pattern emerging.
Tit for tat even ?!
Listen up you two....if there is any rivalry
(unconscious or otherwise) going on here
then forget it. You're both marvelous!
Following hard on the heels of her brother's live
Milwaukee album comes 'Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, A Paris',
Ms Wainwright's live New York tribute to the songs
of Edith Piaf.
I emphasise "tribute'' as her performance in no way attempts
to emulate the voice but rather to capture the energy and
the visceral passion of her muse.
In the main the recording is a triumph.
There is one dark shadow, however, hovering over the project.
It is the guitar playing of musical director Doug Wieselman.
Things start marvelously well with 'La Foule'.
Ms Wainwright's incandescent presence and the superb ensemble
playing breathe wonderful new life into this great song.
'Adieu Mon Coeur' and 'Une Enfant' are, likewise, given vivid,
dramatic and convincing performances by all concerned.
With 'L'Accordeoniste' things begin to go rapidly downhill.
Wieselman's guitar casts a discordant, cacophonous veil over
an iconic composition. It is an unforgivable racket.
'C'Est Toujours La Meme Histoire' is given a truly magical
vocal treatment but once again the ugly guitar interventions
threaten to overwhelm an otherwise remarkable performance.
Garth Hudson's accordion interlude 'Hudsonia' is a hoot!
Thank goodness too for pianist Thomas Bartlett, a sensitive
and erudite accompanist who understands the spirit and
essence of this beguiling music.
The string trio and brass players also deliver exemplary support.
'Non, La Vie N'Est Pas Triste' finds Wieselman clomping around
again like a bull in a china shop, leaving an excremental trail
over an otherwise thrilling arrangement.
Ms Wainwright sings like a bruised angel.
AND WHAT ON EARTH IS HE TRYING TO DO IN 'LE METRO DE PARIS' ?!
We can only dream what might have been possible had the guitar
part been entrusted to the likes of Marc Ribot.
Don't get me wrong. This is a wonderful album in very many ways.
Ms Wainwright delivers inspired new insights into Piaf's repertoire.
Her legacy and memory is well served by this loving tribute.
Forgive the Wieselman rant if you are able but it really does take
an effort of will to to listen beyond the very real damage he inflicts
on this beautiful music and fully appreciate the riches within.
Highly recommended none-the-less.