Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Talk to Me of Mendocino
I had another song picked out for this feature this week. But then I got the news that Kate McGarrigle had died. There is no need for me to post a full-length tribute here; my friend and fellow Star Maker Boyhowdy has done an excellent job of that here. So instead, I would like to tell you a story.
I started Oliver di Place out of the belief that there is an amazing amount of great music that not enough people are getting to hear. And I have discovered that there is even more than I thought. I would say that this belief started to take hold of me in my high school years. I had a best friend, and neither of us had as much time or money as we would have liked. So, as we began to form our own musical tastes, we shared the job of building our music collections. So his collection had the Beatles, while mine had the Rolling Stones. He had Stephen Sondheim, while I had Joni Mitchell. And he got us started on Kate and Anna McGarrigle. I heard their first two albums this way, but I never owned them. I was floored by what I heard. This was my first encounter with the influence of French-Canadian folk music; it would be quite some time before I would hear this folk genre in its pure form. But it informed the McGarrigle’s sound. Here also were two wonderful singers who blended beautifully.
You can guess what happened next. After high school, my friend and I drifted apart. The music of the McGarrigles went with him. But I remembered it, and tried to keep an ear out for their work. Over the years, I would hear a song hear or a song there, and it was always as good as I remembered. Throughout what I heard of their career, the quality never wavered. But there were always other artists vying for my attention. So it comes down to this: Kate McGarrigle deserves to be honored here, but, to this day, I don’t own any of their albums. I have them on a distressingly long list of artists whose work I should have and don’t.
For this post, then, I have chosen the song Talk to Me of Mendocino. It comes from their first album, and is one of the first examples of Kate’s songwriting I ever heard.