Marianne Faithfull has been godmother to two generations of female singers, and she still has lessons to teach them all. Her life has encompassed stardom, addiction and creative rebirth, and that cracked, experienced voice has taken on more and more of a patina as time (and tears) have gone by. At 64, there's the weight of a weary lifetime in her singing — an awful beauty, part Mother Courage, part Marlene Dietrich. This time out, she reveals more of herself than she has in the past, co-writing of the four tracks on Horses, including the deeply introspective title cut that takes her back through many troubled years in search of salvation.
Really, though, Faithfull is at her best as an interpreter, drawing blood from the psyche of others, and she starts on the perfect note with "The Stations" by the Gutter Twins (aka Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan). Its dark guitar swirl and tormented lyrics form the perfect foil to her detached, sing-speak reading to offer a hypnotic study in contrasting emotions. She's far more straightforward on Carole King's "Going Back," transforming the original optimism of the piece into something far more wistful, like a trip through a photo album of her blooming youth. But that sense of memory and farewell runs like an undercurrent through much of the album, not only in something as obvious as "Past Present And Future" or the gentle melancholy of "Love Song," but also in the brooding closer "The Old House," a song that resonates with the air of finality. Back in 2006, Faithfull said she was contemplating retirement; from the mood that pervades this disc, she might finally have decided to take that step.