The record racks are crammed with the offspring of famous musical parents nowadays, but Rufus Wainwright is the only one with the talent to match his breeding. The son of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Rufus has already distinguished himself as a major auteur after just one album, invoking breathless comparisons to hallowed names like Brian Wilson, Randy Newman and even Cole Porter.
A bit of a prodigy, Rufus had barely entered his double-digit years when he began touring with his mother, and by the age of 14 he had earned a Genie nomination for Best Song In A Film. After spending the next several years on the coffeehouse circuit in Montreal, he was signed to DreamWorks by Lenny Waronker (appropriately, the former producer of both Newman and Wilson).
Wainwright's stunning self-titled debut has little connection to the gentle whimsy of his parents' music. Instead, it showcases romantic piano ballads garnished with strings, horns, vintage keyboards and off-the-wall percussion. While his lyrics are thoughtful, touching on family, music, personal travels and (especially) doomed love, it's his melodies that linger in the memory, reminiscent at times of classic Verdi arias. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Rufus has been a devotee of Italian opera since his early teens.)
Whether Wainwright can maintain this lofty standard remains to be seen. However, given that the songs on his debut were chosen from a staggering 56 demos, this prolific writer's future seems assured.