Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little More McGarrigle

In a tribute to Kate McGarrigle posted at Bloggorhea the other day, friend and colleague Mead Hunter embedded a video of Ms. McGarrigle performing her beautiful song “Talk to Me of Mendocino". That live performance with accompaniment from her talented children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, led me to another version that was recorded as part of the BBC’s “Transatlantic Sessions” program--a show that brings noted musicians from both sides of the ocean together, with a particular focus on Scots-Irish musical influences. I’ve used videos from the sessions in past posts and recommend that you either get the DVDs or search YouTube for “Transatlantic Sessions” for more.

Here’s Kate McGarrigle singing "Talk to Me of Mendocino" with Karen Matheson, a Scottish singer known for her vocals with Capercaillie.

That led me to this version of “Farewell, Farewell”, which was written by Richard Thompson* and first appeared on Fairport Convention’s “Liege and Lief” album. I wore that album out by playing it hundreds of times in high school. I think it was originally my sister's album, but I may still have it squirreled away somewhere. This version of the song is beautifully rendered by Irish singer Mary Black, and it's hard to believe it wasn't written 300 years ago.

* Richard Thompson will be playing at the Aladdin Theatre on February 16th and 17th. He comes through Portland every few years, sometimes solo and other times with a band. We've had the privilege of seeing him a few times, including a memorable solo show under the summer sky at the Oregon Zoo. In another show at the Aladdin with band in two he let loose some fiery guitar solos.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Goodbye Kate McGarrigle

The sad news came out this morning that Kate McGarrigle has died, succumbing to clear cell sarcoma, a form of cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2006. Kate and her sister Anna, wrote and performed as the McGarrigle Sisters, an accomplished folk duo emerging from Canada in the 1970s. Together, they are exemplars of the beauty of harmony sung by siblings. Kate may be better known to younger readers as the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, children from her marriage to another great singer-songwriter, Loudon Wainwright III.

In her honor, here is Kate McGarrigle with her sister, son and a few notable colleagues, singing a sumptuous rendition of one of Stephen Foster’s most moving songs, “Hard Times Come Again No More.” You can play this one at my funeral.

UPDATE: Noah Adams at NPR has a new story on Kate McGarrigle, including a song link.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Heavy

Oh, hi there. Have you been waiting here long? I'm sorry, I just stepped out for a few months on an errand or two. Here we are just like old times. You're looking good. Can I get you something to drink? Maybe it's best if we pretend there hasn't been this gap in our relationship. Okay? Then let's get started.

My wife receives daily dispatches from NPR’s “Song of the Day” in her magical internets message box, and I appreciate her unerring knack for forwarding those that she knows I’m going to like. Tonight she sent me a selection from a UK band of which I was completely unaware: The Heavy. NPR's commentator called it “dirty basement soul” and described the song “Sixteen” as “what would happen if The Black Keys covered an unheard James Brown song and for some reason Tom Waits was there.” When what you really need is some good thumping bass, give this one a spin. The accompanying video is pretty cool too.

The post aptly compares “Sixteen” to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”, saying “it takes it apart and reassembles it in a nominally different configuration. It sounds just like it, only more so.” I can certainly hear the influence of Mr. Hawkins influence. See what you think (after getting through 45 seconds of silliness):

Here is another video from The Heavy, with a tune titled , “That Kind of Man”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m hearing the riff from Rare Earth’s “I Just Want To Celebrate” combined with a falsetto from Marvin Gaye or Sly and the Family Stone.