Bedecked in matching knee-length frocks, shaped like Scrooge’s nightshirt and patterned like a 1970s pair of curtains, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche really are mad, mad fun.
“Our brother Rufus sent us these terrible dresses,” says Martha at the White Horse in Ballincollig, Co Cork. “We thought we would never wear them, but we’ve just done our last four shows in them, so they’re smelling really bad by now; keep your distance.”
Vocally talented as well as comical, the Wainwrights harmonise beautifully in a set made up entirely of songs from their current album, Songs In The Dark. This features songs sung to them as children, raiding the back catalogues of their folk star mothers, Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche, and their shared father, acerbic legend Loudon Wainwright III.
Martha wasn’t wrong when she said these lyrics seem darker than they actually are. In her father’s song ‘Lullaby’ (“Shut up and count some sheep; and do me a favour, don’t bitch in your sleep”), Loudon is trying to talk himself to sleep, not threatening a sleepless child.
This show was one of the highlights of a festival at the White Horse that also included De Dannan and HamSandwich, as well as a discussion on the music industry that was addressed by promoter Peter Aiken.
The sisters hit some real musical highs, notably on Richard Thompson’s ‘End Of The Rainbow’, Paul Simon’s ‘El Condor Pasa’ and the audience joining in with trad song ‘Do You Love An Apple’.
However it is the comedy which gives these sisters their unique edge. Their pitch for people to stay after the show to buy signed CDs was hilarious.
“We’ve lugged this heavy load of CDs with us in our suitcases,” said Martha. Lucy added: “This job is 85% carrying things to sell to people.”
Jack O’Rourke did a great warm-up job as support. Having retraced their ‘folk royalty’ family tree, he then covered Kate McGarrigle’s ‘Talk To Me of Mendocino’, with pockets of the crowd singing along.
The capacity audience also enjoyed O’Rourke’s own songs, ‘I’ll Forget You In the Morning’, ‘Naivety’ and ‘Silence’. Definitely a name to watch for the future.