and Ann McGarrigle:
On December 21, 2003, legendary country-rock singer Emmylou Harris appeared on the British radio program, Desert Island Disc, in which the guest is asked to pick the eight records she or he would take to a desert island—the best of the best, in the guest’s private musical pantheon. Emmylou, who has recorded the McGarrigles’ songs and has recorded with them, picked Kate’s “Talk to Me of Mendocino” from KATE AND ANN MCGARRIGLE as one of her eight songs. (FYI, the other picks were “Dreaming My Dreams with You,” by Waylon Jennings; “Uncloudy Day,” by the Staple Singers; “Up on Cripple Creek,” by The Band; “The Emperor of Wyoming,” by Neil Young; “Mansion on the Hill,” by Bruce Springsteen; “The Maker,” by her producer and collaborator Daniel Lanois; and “Polegnala E Todora (Theodora is Dozing),” by Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic, conducted by Philip Koutev.)
Then when Emmylou was required to narrow this down to one record, one book and one luxury, she cheated on the book (by choosing a blank book, then picking a library for the luxury), but the one record she chose was KATE AND ANN MCGARRIGLE.
Sarah McLachlan also picked a McGarrigle song, “I Eat Dinner (When the Hunger's Gone),” for her collection of favorite music on a Hear CD.
And when Elvis Costello recommended the best of pop-rock for classical soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter’s cross-over album, FOR THE STARS, a McGarrigle song, “Go Leave,” showed up, alongside of classics by Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson.
Meanwhile, Anna’s “Heart Like a Wheel,” the first song she wrote, has been covered by at least ten artists (as you will see in the database below), including McKendree Spring, Linda Ronstadt (who made it the title song for her classic 1974 album), Dolores Keane, Billy Bragg, Heidi Berry, Christine Collister, the Sangsters, the Corrs, Bob Davenport, and June Tabor. It recently appeared on THE SQUID AND THE WHALE soundtrack. One music critic mistakenly referred to it as a traditional folk standard. It seems like it is.
“Heart Like a Wheel,” “I Eat Dinner (When the Hunger's Gone),” and “Talk to Me of Medocino” are haunting and deeply felt. I like the McGarrigles because of those songs and many others like them (such as On My Way to Town, Love Is, Why Must We Die). But I also like them for their quirky humor, found plentifully on all their albums. I also like them for the rich texture of folk music they’ve absorbed and made part of their musical language (beginning with Quebec French folk music, but extending to the broad American folk tradition). And in this age of rock music that almost always lacks complexity, emotional depth, and melodic and harmonic originality, I like the McGarrigles because their rock songs have not been dumbed down, but are written with the same melodic intelligence and grace that we find in their ballads.
Following is a database of the songs written by Kate and Ann. But it also includes songs on any Kate and Ann McGarrigle album, including songs they perform that are traditional folk songs or songs written by other people (from Stephen Foster to Wade Hemsworth). You could argue that they’ve made such songs Kate and Ann McGarrigle songs by the alchemy of interpretation. When great songwriters perform folk songs or songs written by others, it’s almost as if they’re rewriting the songs and making them their own.
I add a short appendix of selected songs that Kate and Ann sing backup in.
Database:The McGarrigle Songs by Chronology
Songs by Song Title
Any additions or corrections will be welcomed. Send to toddmagos(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I am indebted to the following sources:
The McGarrigles official page, www.mcgarrigles.com/
The Wikipedia entry on the McGarrigles, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_and_Anna_McGarrigle
A Japanese discography, http://homepage1.nifty.com/hebon/fhp/fhp_28.htm
A German McGarrigles webpage, http://www.8ung.at/matapedia/
The Ectophilesï¿½ Guide: http://ectoguide.org/artists/mcgarrigle.kate.anna
The Candian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0002283