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The McGarrigle Hour

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Album Review

An interesting idea, given the talented family tree of the McGarrigle Sisters: Gather the family together (including Kate's ex-husband Loudon Wainwright) and record a CD as they play the family piano and sing traditional folk tunes, originals, and old pop standards. Add in some friends (Emmylou Harris turning in a stirring vocal on "Skip Rope Song"), Linda Ronstadt, and Chaim Tannenbaum, and the end result is a pleasant yet somewhat mediocre CD. But even a mediocre release from this family has several redeeming qualities. Kate and Anna's harmonies have never sounded tighter, and the choice of using Joe Boyd as producer (he produced their first two albums) was a good one, as he seems able to highlight their vocals and harmonies. There are some truly amazing songs as well, especially when they tackle pure, traditional folk tunes. Loudon Wainwright's "Schooldays," the opening track, is an early highlight, featuring great vocals and a great tune. The traditional folk song "Dig My Grave," featuring Chaim Tannenbaum, is chilling, and Anna's version of her own "Cool River" is incredibly moving — all beautiful songs. The problem with this album is that there are no new songs, which is a real shame since this is the follow-up to 1996's brilliant Matapedia. This may be a small complaint, as the songs all mean something to the family, as evidenced in the notes in the package. Overall, however, a good album, but not the best release from the McGarrigles.


Formed: 1974 in Montreal, Canada

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The music of Montreal-born songwriting sisters Kate & Anna McGarrigle first came to international recognition in 1974 when Linda Ronstadt recorded Anna's "Heart Like a Wheel" as the title song to one of her albums. The Canadian sisters were signed to Warner Bros. and recorded Kate & Anna McGarrigle, an album of deeply felt (sometimes deeply funny) songs with a homey, eclectic folk backing and tart, striking vocals. It was widely hailed. Its two follow-ups seemed rushed, though they contained...
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The McGarrigle Hour, Kate & Anna McGarrigle
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