Kate McGarrigle’s passing at age 63 from sarcoma left behind a huge void. This prompted her children, Martha & Rufus Wainwright and her former musical partner and sister, Anna McGarrigle along with curator, Joe Boyd to put on a series of tribute concerts in 2010. The aim was to keep her legacy alive and Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works of Kate McGarrigle looks poised to continue this effort.
The record is a live album that combines 34 tracks, which were recorded during the three concerts held in London, Toronto and New York. It boasts a star-studded line-up of guests from the Wainwright and McGarrigle families plus: Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Teddy Thompson and Jimmy Fallon. The concert was also turned into the documentary film; Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle. This was produced by Lian Lunson (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man) and made its debut at Sydney Film Festival last year.
McGarrigle was famous for writing the Linda Ronstadt hit, “Heart Like A Wheel” and she would produce a fine discography of albums over the years along with her sister, Anna. The songs were mostly parlour songs, waltzes and folk-like hymns that took their influences from Canadian folk music, Edith Piaf and Gershwin. In many ways this set does a similar thing by leafing through McGarrigle’s sophisticated songbooks and provides something as comfortable as an old pair of shoes, where the beautiful voices of the contributors mean repeat listens are also rewarded.
“Kiss & Say Goodbye” is a fun pop song that really gets at the heart of the collection and shows how bittersweet the whole affair is. The mood is upbeat and it is rousing at times, especially when it feels like a gospel choir is chiming in at the end. But it also plays out like an epitaph as McGarrigle is ultimately singing her farewells.
This sentiment is also shared on “I Just Want To Make It Last”. This cut is actually a home demo performed by Kate. It is also a funny, spoken word song where she grapples with her own mortality with equal amounts of tenderness and wit. The introduction is also rather reminiscent of Rodriguez as McGarrigle fires off a set of rhyming couplets so well.
Elsewhere, Martha Wainwright does an emotional and stirring version of “Tell My Sister”. It’s a piano ballad that evokes another place and time and seems to be soaked in tears, formal sentimentality and sepia tones. The mood does lighten somewhat in “I Am A Diamond” where she joins her brother. In this, their two strong voices combine to tell the story of a tough woman at the turn of the century.
Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works of Kate McGarrigle is a collection of live cuts that are joyful, wistful and bittersweet. The 34 touching folk tracks do the fine lady justice by showing her to be a tough-as-nails personality with a soft femininity, glad to wear her heart on her sleeve and all while she retains an air of erudition, grace and pure heart.
The proceeds of the record are being donated to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, a non-profit organisation designed to help in the fight against sarcoma and to preserve her legacy. It seems like this set does an excellent job of doing just that, keeping her flame burning bright and introducing her wonderful work to a new generation of listeners through some emotional performances that combine to become one respectful, loving homage.
Originally published on 10 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/sing-me-the-songs—celebrating-the-works-of-kate-mcgarrigle-10072013.html
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