Album: Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright's Piaf Record (Drowned In Sound)

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The Independent Culture

As with her brother Rufus's tribute to Judy Garland, Martha Wainwright's tribute to Edith Piaf is the kind of album project one can admire, but without ever wanting to hear it again.

Produced by the great Hal Willner, with clever arrangements by various members of the nine-piece backing band, it's an impeccably rendered set recorded live in New York. And Martha's flamboyant, mannered delivery slips easily between strident and intimate as she tackles the songs with suitable drama – on "Marie Trottoir", it's more like acting than singing. But the big, blustery emotions, riding the rolling waves of piano, horns and strings in songs such as "Adieu Mon Coeur", "L'Accordéoniste" and "Non, La Vie N'est Pas Triste", can leave one feeling a little queasy. The most effective example is probably "Une Enfant", where the urgent verses are heralded by windswept wails and punctuated with more restrained choruses. But overall, the softer, less dramatic pieces are preferable: "Soudain Une Vallée" is gently suggestive rather than grandly emotive, and "C'est Toujours La Même Histoire" has a pleasingly reflective tone, with clarinet prominently poignant. No regrets, though, about there being no "No Regrets".

Download this Une Enfant; Les Grognards; Soudain Une Vallée