HAILING from musical aristocracy, Martha Wainwright has always had a lot to live up to.

The daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle, she comes from impeccable stock, but will always be judged against her parents’ towering achievements. And then there is her aunt, Anna McGarrigle, and terrifyingly-talented brother Rufus (appearing here in Oxford next month).

Yet the Quebecois singer-songwriter has succeeded in carving out a highly individual career, distinguished by her heartfelt autobiographical lyrics, versatile voice and tender delivery.

Her new album follows very much in that vein, though if anything is even more honest and angst-ridden. Given the subject matter it is a compelling ride from despair to pure joy. Her versatile voice dips and rises, weaves and winds over the undulating terrain of her raw emotion - and she takes us with her. It’s a trip which is sometimes exhilarating, occasionally painful and always dramatic.

There is theatricality in spades - starting with doom-laden opener I am Sorry, but they flow into moments of perky pop, Talking Heads-style art-rock, whistful introspection and breezy alt-country, such as second track Can you Believe It, which bounds along with a catchy chorus.

The highpoint comes with Proserpina, a take on the Roman myth and written by her mother before her death from cancer two years ago. It’s a real tear-jerker, dripping in significance, its refrain of Come Home to Mama also serving as the album title.

Kate famously performed the new song herself at the Royal Albert Hall just two months before her death, and her family and friends performed it in tears, at a celebration of her life at the Royal Festival Hall the year after.

The album was recorded at Sean Lennon’s home studio in New York City and produced by Cibo Matto’s Yuka C Honda. Yuka’s husband Nels Cline, of the band Wilco, provides guitar duties throughout while Martha’s own bloke, Brad Albetta, plays bass. It is a homely affair.

Martha has described the album as the culmination of her life experiences so far. “Everything changed for me a couple of years ago,” she says. “and this record is a representation of that and a return to the reason I started writing songs.”

It is a sometimes harrowing but beautiful listen. If you are ready for the ride, strap yourself in. But bring a handkerchief.

* Catch Martha Wainwright at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on December 2 or the Birmingham Institute the day after. Tickets from ticketweb.co.uk