The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for the ‘Kate and Anna McGarrigle’ Category

Wainwright Family Tree: Anna and Kate McGarrigle, Reissued and Expanded

leave a comment »

When Kate McGarrigle succumbed to cancer in February 2010, the music world lost one of its brightest lights.  The wife of Loudon Wainwright III and mother of Rufus Wainwright, Kate proved herself a keen observer of the world as both a songwriter and a performer, most often with her older sister Anna.  The very same week Loudon’s long career was celebrated with the release of a career-spanning box set, Nonesuch released a three-disc collection devoted to Kate and Anna McGarrigle.  Tell My Sister reissues the McGarrigle Sisters’ first two albums, 1975’s Kate and Anna McGarrigle and its follow-up, 1977’s Dancer with Bruised Knees.  To these two remastered records Nonesuch adds an entire disc of unreleased performances including demos, never-before-heard songs and alternate versions of familiar tracks.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle was produced by Greg Prestopino and Joe Boyd, the British producer well-known for his work with Fairport Convention, R.E.M. and Nick Drake.    Prestopino and Boyd surrounded the Canadian sisters with top talent including Bobby Keys, Steve Gadd, Lowell George, David Spinozza, Russ Kunkel and even saxophone great Plas Johnson.  This debut LP featured the sisters’ version of one bona fide standard.  Anna’s “Heart Like a Wheel” was the title track of Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 Capitol Records swansong, the album that propelled Ronstadt to worldwide fame.  The LP featured one song by Loudon Wainwright III (“Swimming Song”) but Wainwright’s contribution was of a piece with the sisters’, whose own often-beautiful songs have a similar humanity and wit.

Dancer with Bruised Knees came in 1977, reuniting the sisters with the same production team.  Producer Boyd has expressed the opinion that this album’s main failing was simply being the follow-up to such a perfect debut.  While it didn’t garner the same high praise as its predecessor, Dancer was another step forward for the sisters’ traditional folk sound.  John Cale joined the proceedings, as did bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.  British folkies Dave Mattacks and Pat Donaldson also appeared.  Like the first album, there are songs sung in French, traditional folk staples and new songs including the haunting “Southern Boys.”

The third disc of Tell My Sister offers a healthy 21 tracks.  Some are from a Kate solo demo recorded in 1971, and other tracks derived from album pre-production sessions.  The songs are largely spare (even more so than on the finished album), bringing the sisters’ gorgeous harmonies to the fore.  “Saratoga Summer Song” and Kate’s collaboration with Loudon, “Over the Hill,” are among the disc’s standouts.  There are alternate versions of favorites like “Southern Boys,” “Heart Like a Wheel” and “(Talk to Me of) Mendocino.”

Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s 3-CD retrospective Tell My Sister is available in stores now.  Hit the jump for the track listing with discographical annotation and a link to order! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 6, 2011 at 10:07