Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Albums For Life: 107: Kate and Anna McGarrigle

"Never had the blues from whence I came
But in New York State I caught them"

On the back of my recent 'Lovesong' from Martha Wainwright, I dug out my copy of 'Kate and Anna McGarrigle', the Canadian sisters' eponymous debut from 1975.
It sounds terrible; reedy and thin.
The riches within are worth enduring the audio for, but it's the production and mastering that stops this from featuring in my (more considered) Top 30.
I'd waffled on in my last 'Albums for Life' choice about Elton John's faux Americana. This album seemed to be the real deal; about as authentic as you could get; although by rights I guess I should call it 'Canadiana'. The self penned songs sounded like long lost Stephen Foster compositions; there was something timeless in the strained delivery and close harmonies that made me think that I was tuning in to a couple of sirens who were wailing ancient prairie truths at me.
The album sold on the back of 'Heart Like a Wheel' which Linda Ronstadt had a huge hit with, but it was another song that got me; it was the first time I can remember being poleaxed by a lyric; yup, 'Talk to Me of Mendocino' reduced me to a wobbly mess. And it's always the unlikely lines; here it was the archaic 'never had the blues from whence I came..."
It's surely one of the most heartfelt paeans ever written about homesickness:

I bid farewell to the state of old New York
My home away from home
In the state of New York I came of age
When first I started roaming
And the trees grow high in New York state
And they shine like gold in Autumn
Never had the blues from whence I came
But in New York state I caught them

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won't you say "Come with me?"

And it's on to Southbend, Indiana
Flat out on the western plain
Rise up over the Rockies and down on into California
Out to where but the rocks remain
And let the sun set on the ocean
I will watch it from the shore
Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I'll rise with it till I rise no more 

Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes, I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won't you say "Come with me?"

I found this lovely version of the song from a recent 3 disc collection 'Tell My Sister', which I've just ordered from Amazon. Happily the first two CDs are much improved versions of the debut and its fine follow up 'Dancer With Bruised Knees', lovingly remastered by the great Joe Boyd, plus a 3rd disc of previously unreleased material.
I have followed that alternate take with film of the sisters in performance, taken from the first series of the excellent 'Transatlantic Sessions'.
Same song.
It's worth listening to twice.

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