Rufus Wainwright: Down In The Willow Garden ft. Brandi Carlile

The stars' voices mesh perfectly on this traditional folk murder ballad. 

Rufus Wainwright: Down In The Willow Garden ft. Brandi Carlile

By Kerry Doole

Rufus Wainwright - Down In The Willow Garden ft. Brandi Carlile (BMG): You could view this track and an upcoming album as a return to Rufus Wainwright's roots, given his family ties to folk greats The McGarrigle Sisters and Loudon Wainwright 111. After making a mark with early solo albums, he branched into cabaret and opera, to critical acclaim, and now, with his 50th birthday approaching, Rufus is going back to folk.

In a label press release, Wainwright explains that "The older I get, the more I appreciate how valuable my folk knowledge is, to have had it ingrained in me as a child. I’m from a bona fide folkocracy who mixed extensively with other folkocracies such as the Seegers and the Thompsons. I spun off into opera and pop. Now I’m back where it all began.”


The new album, Folkocracy, is being released on June 2 and features many star names as guests. That list includes Brandi Carlile, John Legend, David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Nicole Scherzinger, Chaka Khan, Andrew Bird, ANOHNI, Susanna Hoffs, Van Dyke Parks, and Madison Cunningham, with Wainwright explaining that "This album is almost like a recorded birthday party and birthday present to myself. I just invited all the singers that I greatly admire and always wanted to sing with."

Red-hot singer/songwriter Carlile appears on the first advance track, Down In The Willow Garden, a traditional murder ballad that features Wainwright's distinctive vocals meshing perfectly with the sweeter tones of Carlile. There is minimal instrumentation, allowing the voices (and dark lyrics) to hold the spotlight.

“Singing with Rufus feels like watching birds swirl around together instinctively in flight,” says Carlile in the press release. "It’s anticipated but somehow as natural as can be. His voice is so special to me that I hear it sometimes when he’s not even singing with me. I loved every second of flying around in this music with him.”


Wainwright explains that “Brandi I see a lot, often with Joni Mitchell. I chose us a cheery little number – not! The song is so blatantly brutal and masochistic that I had to sing it with a woman. Sadly, we still live in a violent world. The amazing thing about so many folk songs is that content wise, they sound very contemporary. Think of the gun crime in the States right now.”

Wainwright – joined by a six-piece band and a number of surprise special guests – will celebrate Folkocracy with a Release Day concert event set for Los Angeles, CA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday, June 2.

He has a busy spring and summer touring schedule that includes dates in Spain, a US tour, and festival appearances at the Winnipeg and Mariposa Folk Festivals. Of note is a 'Wainwright does Weill' residency at NYC's Cafe Carlyle, May 16-20. Itinerary here





Publicity: Red Umbrella PR

Mélanie Renaud
Courtesy photo

Mélanie Renaud


Obituaries: Quebec Singer Mélanie Renaud, Saxophone Legend David Sanborn

This week we also acknowledge the passing of English keyboardist John Hawken and soul/ska singer Jimmy James of The Vagabonds.

Mélanie Renaud, a Quebec singer, died on May 14, at age 42, from ovarian cancer.

The Haiti-born artist, who was adopted by Quebecois parents when she was eight months old, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer more than seven years ago.

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