Innovative songsmith Rufus Wainwright recruited fellow genre-bending talent Brandi Carlile for a goosebump-worthy new track.
Released today (March 7), “Down in the Willow Garden” finds the pair putting their own captivating spin on a traditional murder ballad from the early 19th century. Over the decades, the song has been covered by dozens of artists, from bluegrass icons like the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs to modern indie-folk acts, including Bon Iver.
Behind subdued and intricate instrumentation, Wainwright and Carlile seamlessly blend their voices while telling the haunting story of a brutal murder from the perpetrator’s perspective.
“Singing with Rufus feels like watching birds swirl around together instinctively in flight,” Carlile says. “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.”
“Brandi I see a lot, often with Joni Mitchell,” Wainwright adds. “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.”
“Down in the Willow Garden” is one of 15 tracks on Wainwright’s upcoming album Folkocracy, which is set for release on June 2 via BMG. The all-star project — which includes guest appearances from Sheryl Crow, John Legend, Andrew Bird, and many more — marks an important chapter ahead of the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s upcoming 50th birthday.
“The older I get, the more I appreciate how valuable my folk knowledge is, to have had it ingrained in me as a child,” Wainwright explains. “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.”
Wainwright will hit the road in support of Folkocracy later this year, with dates across North America, the EU and UK expected to be revealed in the coming weeks. You can find more information on upcoming tour dates at Rufus Wainwright’s official website.
Rufus Wainwright, Folkocracy Track List:
1. “Alone” (Feat. Madison Cunningham)
2. “Heading for Home” (ft. John Legend)
3. “Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)” (ft. Susanna Hoffs, Chris Stills and Sheryl Crow)
4. “Down in the Willow Garden” (ft. Brandi Carlile)
6. “Nacht und Träume”
7. “Harvest” (ft. Andrew Bird & Chris Stills)
8. “Going to a Town” (ft. ANOHNI)
9. “High on a Rocky Ledge” (ft. David Byrne)
10. “Kaulana Na Pua” (ft. Nicole Scherzinger)
11. “Hush Little Baby” (ft. Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche)
12. “Black Gold” (ft. Van Dyke Parks)
13. “Cotton Eyed Joe” (ft. Chaka Khan)
14. “Arthur McBridge”
15. “Wild Mountain Thyme” (ft. Anna McGarrigle, Chaim Tannenbaum, Lily Lanken, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Martha Wainwright)