Parlor Secrets

Kate and Anna McGarrigle gather family and close friends to create a recording built on deep bonds and memories

Anna: Heartbeats Accelerating and Matapedia are a little darker than our other work. Heartbeats especially was a dark concept. At the end I was so drained I thought I'd never want to go into the studio and make a record like that again. But when we made Matapedia, it became an extension of Heartbeats, which was the nearest thing to what we've done, but with an Appalachian feel. We were brought up in a Laurentian village, but it's like a new religion, folk music, the folk revival of the '60s. You're suddenly converted to it and make it your own. It's like becoming a Buddhist. Banjos become a part of you. You think in terms of strings.

Coming after their two darkest recordings, The McGarrigle Hour's suite of show tunes, parlor songs and bring-down-the-coffeehouse numbers feels like a deep breath of whimsy and release and a redemption through family's indissoluble bonds. Blood ties may hold dark secrets, but they also give meaning to the disparate, fraying threads of our individual lives.

Kate: Many singers today are less into the idea of projecting in a living room, projecting to an audience. They're either in a coffeehouse with a microphone or a small place, where you can sing softly. It's almost like they're singing to themselves, as opposed to reaching out and singing. It's very internalized. Whereas the songs on our record, songs like, "Goodnight Sweetheart," have a very different feel. You're in a room, and someone is singing to you. They're parlor songs, made to be sung for an intimate audience in a living room.

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