Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle
Released the day before Liam Lunson's film of the same name, this two-disc set offers music from three concerts that took place over three years in London, New York, and Toronto, curated by Joe Boyd. The film only covers the New York show, but the music here presents a much more expansive portrait of Kate McGarrigle's legacy and influence in 34 tracks. Hosted by her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, these performances are both a family album -- Kate's sister Anna participates, as does her daughter Lily Lanken, and aunt Sloan Wainwright-- and a star-studded tribute. Performers include Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Antony Hegarty, Justin Vivian Bond, Krystle Warren, Linda and Richard Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Jenni Muldaur, and Jimmy Fallon, performing either solo and/or in various combinations backed by three different ensembles comprised of crack musicians. Many of these performances showcase McGarrigle's diverse, restless, and insightful songwriting, and how enduring her songs are. Highlights include a stirring "(Talk to Me) Of Mendocino" with Jones' lead vocal backed by Martha and Rufus. Martha's solo reading of "Matapedia" is sparsely orchestrated with only an acoustic guitar, violin and her vocal, which gets deep inside the grain of the lyric. Teddy Thompson's offering of "Saratoga Summer Song," sounds like it was written for him. Given Kate's passing, Anna's classic "Heart Like a Wheel," sung by her, Harris, Warren, Martha, and Lanken, is searing. Hegarty delivers a devastating solo on "Go Leave," and Harris and Jones offer a rousing version of "As Fast as My Feet Can Carry Me," backed by a full country band. Martha's and Rufus' duet on "I Am a Diamond" opens disc two as a militant yet delicate personal anthem. The second version of "Go Leave" by Linda Thompson backed by Richard's guitar, is doubly poignant given it's performed by a divorced couple. Rufus' and Hegarty's performance of "I Cried for Us" is perhaps the most heartbreaking track on the entire set, while Peggy Seeger's "Tell My Sister," sung in a quavering voice, carries within it both vulnerability and empathy. The two biggest surprises here are in the closing sections on both discs. Kate McGarrigle herself appears via the wonders of technology on "Prosperina," where her voice is accompanied by Sloan and Martha, and in "I Just Want to Make It Last," a late home solo demo that addresses her mortality with wit, irony, and tenderness.This collection offers testimony to Kate's unique, quirky vision and reminds us of what we've lost. More than anything, Sing Me The Songs... is a celebration, and is presented as such: informal, intimate, humorous, and always, even in its uneven moments, thoroughly engaging.