Kate McGarrigle Tribute Celebrates "A Quietly Magnificent Catalog" (NY Times); "Extraordinarily Moving Night" (Rolling Stone)
The celebration of Kate McGarrigle's music continued for a second consecutive night at New York's Town Hall on Friday night, with family and friends gathered to pay tribute to the late singer/songwriter in concerts to benefit the Kate McGarrigle Sarcoma Research Fund.
"When the Canadian songwriter Kate McGarrigle died on Jan. 18, 2010," writes New York Times music critic Jon Pareles in his review of the show, "she left behind an extended musical family and a quietly magnificent catalog. Both were at the center of 'A Celebration of Kate McGarrigle,' tribute concerts on Thursday and Friday nights at Town Hall."
The concert featured performances by Kate’s children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, her sister Anna, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Jenni Muldaur, Teddy Thompson, Sloan Wainwright, Justin Vivian Bond, and Krystle Warren. Jimmy Fallon, who gave a fantastic performance of Loudon Wainwright's "Swimming Song" on Thursday, was unable to attend Friday's performance due to a family emergency.
"Ms. McGarrigle wrote 20th-century parlor songs: folksy-sounding, latter-day descendants of Stephen Foster tunes, hymns, waltzes and popular arias," says Pareles. "They often featured vocal harmonies from Anna McGarrigle, her older sister, fellow songwriter and performing partner since the 1970s, and from other family members in the studio and onstage. Yet within those cozy settings, Ms. McGarrigle was bold and sophisticated, musically and emotionally."
He says of the Town Hall concerts: "The music got the familial treatment: vocal camaraderie with a constantly changing cast of harmonizers, and thoughtful, homespun arrangements that alluded to bygone styles and always had a clarinet or a banjo on hand when needed."
Read the complete concert review at nytimes.com.
The Rolling Stone review notes that the tone of this "extraordinarily moving night of music" was at once celebratory and somber.
"McGarrigle wrote and sang heartrendingly personal songs throughout most of her life; hearing them now that she’s gone was emotional, to say the least," writes reviewer Simon Vozick-Levinson. "Performers and audience members alike could be seen tearing up ... But the show also made room for the warmth, humor and life that are equally characteristic of her work."
Read the review at rollingstone.com.
Entertainment Weekly, in its concert review, describes the McGarrigle sisters' music this way: "Kate, who released two seminal albums in the ’70s with her sister Anna, was a pioneer of cerebral folk music that was at once heartfelt and ironic: it was traditional music coming from connected urbanites (born in Montreal, living in New York) who wryly fetishized the perceived simplicities of rural life."
Reviewer Joseph Brannigan Lynch says of the evening's performances that "Rufus and Martha understandably offered the most stirring performances of the night (in spite of wonderfully moving performances from Norah, Emmylou, and the stunningly talented jazz-folk newcomer Krystle Warren)."
Echoing Rolling Stone's assessment of the night's emotions, Lynch says: "In true tribute to the yin and yang of McGarrigle music, the night was as rousing as it was somber ... In spite of the sobering loss, the audience received firsthand evidence that the loving wit Kate personified still lives on through her family."
He concludes, happily: "McGarrigle style—full of sharp love, curiosity and humor—is still alive with Kate’s sisters and children."
Read the complete review at ew.com.
Nonesuch Records recently released Tell My Sister, a three-disc set comprising remastered versions of those "two seminal albums," Kate & Anna McGarrigle and Dancer with Bruised Knees, along with a collection of previously unreleased songs, including solo and duo demos. Joe Boyd, who produced the McGarrigles’ first two albums and curated last week's concerts, assembled the material for the third disc in addition to serving as producer for the whole set.
To pick up a copy of Tell My Sister, head to the Nonesuch Store, where orders include high-quality, 320 kbps MP3s of the complete album at checkout.