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Rufus Wainwright (from the album Folkoracy available on BMG Records) (By Lee Zimmerman)
Rufus Wainwright has always shown a certain reverence for tradition, whether it’s in the form of reimagining Shakespeare’s sonnets, bringing the music of Judy Garland back to life, or sharing an opera of his own creation. Nevertheless, Folkocracy could be his most deliberate attempt to parcel out past precepts, an effort he undertakes with due diligence and devotion.
Granted, some of the song choices tend to lean towards the obscure. For every great classic such as “Cotton Eyed Joe”, “Shenandoah”, or “Wild Mountain Thyme” there are certain offerings — Ewan Macoll’s “Alone”, the ballad “Nacht Und Trauma” by German classic composer Franz Schubert, and a traditional tune, “Arthur McBride”, in particular — that will likely be familiar only to the most dedicated musicologist. Nevertheless, Wainwright treats each with nothing less than absolute respect, even when reimagining more modern entries such as the Mamas and Papas’ serene yet celebratory “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon” or transposing Neil Young’s “Harvest” by way of down-home designs. He also adds a song of his own, “Going to Town”, finding a fit that doesn’t break from the solemn sounds that pervade the album overall.
Given the scholarly approach taken throughout, it’s especially pleasing to find John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Andrew Bird, and Chaka Khan among those taking part in the proceedings. All have a conspicuous presence, but rather than turning Folkocracy into some sort of superstar session, the arrangements maintain a measure of control and consistency. As deliberate as Rufus Wainwright’s been in the past to show off his extravagance and eccentricities, here he more or less sticks to the standard one might expect from a true student of song.
Happily, then, given Wainwright’s careful choice of source material, his delivery measures up to the material. Indeed, his read of “Shenandoah”, “Wild Mountain Thyme”, and “Harvest” take an emotional approach that reflects a genuine commitment to effectively conveying these classics. Far from being simply a rote replay, Folkocracy is consistently compelling rather than cavalier.
In that regard, Rufus Wainwright offers an album that elevates his standing, making him as pertinent as folklorist as his dad Loudon Wainwright and his mother, the late Kate McGarrigle, were in terms of acumen and influence. A lesson in the joys of timeless tradition as applied with deftness and dedication, Folkocracy rules in its own certain and specific way. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Rufus Wainwright from AMAZON
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