|Variety, March 23, 1983|
McCarrigle Sisters/Leo Kottke
Carnegie Hall, N.Y.
Long before the Roches became the darlings of the critical establishment, Quebec-based Anna & Kate McGarrigle were making folk-based, intellectually engaging music with top grade sibling harmonies. For a while in the mid-'70s, after Linda Ronstadt had a hit with the McGarrigles' "Heart Like A Wheel," the sisters enjoyed a degree of popularity in the States. In the past few years, they've maintained a sizeable cult following here with regular club appearances, and their recent concert at Carnegie Hall attracted a nearly full house.
Although their new Polygram album, "Love Over And Over," is one of their strongest, they performed only a few selections from it, including the uptempo, pop-oriented title cut. Another standout from this LP was "Tu vas m'accompagner," the McGarrigles' French-language version of Bob Seger's "You'll Accompany Me."
Due to the familiarity of the latter song, the foreign language was only a slight barrier. It was a greater obstacle, however, to the appreciation of several other Gallic tunes, some of which were quite beautiful, musically. While singing them in English might destroy the flavor, providing the aud [sic] with translations might not be a bad idea.
Other material in the 75-minutes set included a few gospel-like numbers, among them "Jesus Lifeline" from the new LP; older tunes such as "Dancer With Bruised Knees," "Be My Baby" and "First-Born;" and a rousing, acapella encore of "Heart Like A Wheel," with group manager Jane McGarrigle joining her sisters on choruses.
Part of group's charm lies in their versatility. Anna and Kate are equally adept pianists and superb vocalists, and Kate does some nice turns on accordion in the French songs. Chaim Tennenbaum, who also sings, plays mandolin, sax, violin and harmonica, all skillfully. And guitarist Jorn Reissner shows considerable talent, especially in his adaptation of Mark Knopfler's style in "Love Over And Over."
But Reissner was a journeyman compared to opening act Leo Kottke, who is unquestionably the reigning acoustic guitarist. While Kottke's virtuosity showed a marked classical influence, he has maintained his links to bluegrass and folk music. Although his longer improvisations were carefully structured, they exhibited a spontaneous seamless quality, filled with the fire of inspiration. His singing has improved in the last few years, and on the sung numbers, he achieved a close integration between his vocals and his playing. Combining all this talent with an ingratiating personality, he elicited heavy mitting from the audience. -- Ken
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