Rufus Wainwright Gets David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile to Reinvent Classics on 'Folkocracy'

The album also features Andrew Bird, Chaka Khan, Madison Cunningham, John Legend, Martha Wainwright and more

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Mar 7, 2023

In honour of his upcoming 50th birthday, Rufus Wainwright is getting back to his roots with a star-studded covers album — which will see him take on classics from the folk canon with the likes of David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Andrew Bird, Chaka Khan, Madison Cunningham, John Legend and Martha Wainwright.

Folkocracy is due June 2 via BMG. It follows Wainwright's 2020 album Unfollow the Rules, as well as his collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen on the TikTok-certified disco power ballad title track from last year's The Loneliest Time.

"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 said in a statement. "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."

Our first taste of his collaborative homecoming is lead single and traditional 19th Appalachian murder ballad "Down in the Willow Garden" with Carlile, who has shown a bit of a penchant for teaming up with Canadians — Allison Russell and Joni Mitchell among them — as of late.

"Singing with Rufus feels like watching birds swirl around together instinctively in flight," Carlile shared. "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 added, "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."
Watch the video for "Down in the Willow Garden" below, and keep scrolling for the whole album tracklist.


1. Alone (feat. Madison Cunningham)
2. Heading for Home (feat. John Legend)
3. Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) (feat. Susanna Hoffs, Chris Stills & Sheryl Crow)
4. Down in the Willow Garden (feat. Brandi Carlile)
5. Shenandoah
6. Nacht und Träume
7. Harvest (feat. Andrew Bird & Chris Stills)
8. Going to a Town (feat. ANOHNI)
9. High on a Rocky Ledge (feat. David Byrne)
10. Kaulana Na Pua (feat. Nicole Scherzinger)
11. Hush Little Baby (feat. Martha Wainwright & Lucy Wainwright Roche)
12. Black Gold (feat. Van Dyke Parks)
13. Cotton Eyed Joe (feat. Chaka Khan)
14. Arthur McBridge
15. Wild Mountain Thyme (feat. Anna McGarrigle, Chaim Tannenbaum, Lily Lanken, Lucy Wainwright Roche, & Martha Wainwright)

Pre-order Folkocracy.

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