The Wainwright sisters and Ethan Johns


City Halls, Glasgow

Jan 25th

 Sound: 5 Atmosphere: 5 Performance: 5

Support act Ethan Johns and co strolled onto stage and with a light hearted one liner went straight into the music. The band effortlessly eased from country to bleak songs with Ethen telling the stories that he has witnessed and experienced in his life in America. The word ease is a great way of suggesting the intention for this Celtic connections gig, the four artist musicians communicating a blend of country, blues, with upbeat rock n’ roll rhythms.

After their 40 minute set Ethan and co left the stage, setting the audience up for the two sisters as they walked across it, with Martha Wainwright announcing that the collaboration was still in its invention due to the two singing and writing together. After Ethen (who has known the sisters for many years) introduced his music for the evening the unity of musical taste had become apparent and the sisters flowed into their rhythmic nuance. Their two voices are musically poetic  having had their many years of engulfing musical influence, and having been brought up within it only adds a potency to the evening unfolding.

The set list was also very special, and charming in its execution.  A simple seamless conquering of stage management and musicianship where only two artist appear on stage to fill a room capable of seating 1200 people (although no more than a third managed to turn up.) The two sisters voices and the style of music was made easier with the comical patter in between the songs with Martha and Lucy admitting the gloomy subject material of hobos and prostitution and ultimate darkness the two portrayed as the songs progressed. The Wainwright family write about this darkness and have done for two decades, but always commit themselves to it with humour and grace.

Many high points happen during this one night only gig, the sequenced organisation in a show like this was unique from so many years of dedicated practice by the two sisters who become very capable for the audience and remained soulful and energetic. But when they sing in unison and in harmony the music travels beyond cleverness covering an un-manipulating atmosphere towards the crowd. Lucy sings with lovely compassion and earnestness like an angelic mother singing to her child, Lullabies being a section of the performance. These lullabies are the same that nursed the sisters to sleep in their childhood that inspired the sisters to collaborate producing their acclaimed album ‘Songs in the dark’.

Lucy leaves the stage for Martha to perform some of her other project songs. All of this comes across as being very delicate with the sisters having a carefree attitude developed from mothers and fathers, the sisters share the same father and are to different mothers, there experimentation includes them seeing how well they will get on and as Martha states how “lazy can we be and how many sandwiches can we make instead of practicing.”

Lucy re-joined her sister Martha on stage and they set about their acoustic guitars and harmonious lyrics. As a member of the audience it was a pleasure to take part in this thoughtful abundance of folk singing sisters reflecting their own youth and translating it into verse that relates to us in a deep emotive way.  We saw Lucy quite lucidly engaging the crowd with wry humour move straight into lyrical statements of tragedy and depravity, maybe she really needs her sense of humour.

Their intimacy is developed through their ability to laugh, and their voices are a mix of powerful and far reaching tones. Two musicians entering into a world with two voices and guitars, a world describing the one we all live in.

Reviewer :  Daniel Donnelly


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