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Martha Wainwright’s ”Rufus Is A Tit Man” T-shirt was inherited from her exquisitely gifted mother. It advertised a clever song her father once wrote about her ridiculously talented brother. But nothing inside that T-shirt or her extraordinary family tree could account for the voice that filled the air she barely seemed to breathe.

It almost appeared, as she opened with the intense, dreamlike acoustic guitar invocation of This Life, that her body was working to suppress rather than summon its power. Like a lightning rod channelling something so true it might lay us all to waste, she was an embodiment of restraint in the face of pure emotion unleashed.

She was funny, too. Sisterly sass for Rufus mixed easily with self-deprecating admiration for their late mother, Kate McGarrigle, whose songs I Am a Diamond and Proserpina she sang with heartbreaking pride. All Your Clothes ached for Kate. My Mother is the Ocean Sea was another spellbinding tribute, this one borrowed from Canadian folkie Wade Hemsworth.

In fact, could Edith Piaf possibly have sung a more bell-toned L’Accordeoniste? Lena Horne would have to think twice about Stormy Weather after Wainwright wrung it dry, her body fluttering like a handkerchief as husband Brad Albetta blocked out spare piano chords.

Reviewed By Michael Dwyer

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