Sing Me The Songs – Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle
2013, Various Artists. Nonesuch
Tell My Sister
2011, Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle. Nonesuch
Way to Blue – The Songs of Nick Drake
2013, Various Artists. Navigator
I am occasionally approached by managers or artists wondering if I’m still up for producing records. I say yes, in theory. Then I set forth the way I’d like to do it: live in the studio (mostly, anyway, a few overdubs allowed…), no more than 6 days recording, maximum 6 days for mixing. For singer-songwriters, I say we’d have to include other people’s songs mixed in with theirs. Not covers of well-known songs, just good songs that fit in.
Most respond with, “we’ll think about that and get back to you” and I never hear from them again.
Some years ago, I figured out that curating concerts was the only opportunity I would have to do the kind of thing I used to do in the studio – working with artists on material, rehearsing and hearing a great performance take shape before my eyes/ears. A concert of Syd Barrett’s songs at the Barbican the year after his death was the first; that was fun and the audience loved it, so why not do it again?
There followed a Nick Drake evening at the Birmingham Town Hall, a Witchseason Weekend at the Barbican (ISB tribute one night, Fairport reunion the next) and a McGarrigle family Christmas concert at the Albert Hall. The Nick Drake concert – titled “Way To Blue” – went on the road in Britain, Australia and Italy and, after Kate died, there were tributes to her music in London, New York and Toronto.
During the course of these concerts, I realized that I had within my grasp a way of making the kinds of records I used to make years ago. Recording the Nick Drake and Kate McGarrigle concerts enabled me to release two cds (or three if you count the 2-disc McGarrigle set twice) that have the kind of spontaneous energy you can occasionally achieve in a recording studio. The fact that both sets have been categorized as “compilations” due to their multi-artist nature and have been generally lost in the avalanche of new releases has been disappointing, but, I can dream that, like Nick’s original recordings themselves, time will redeem them and bring them to the wider audience I feel they deserve. (I would think that, wouldn’t I? – to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies.)
And – late breaking bulletin – my pal and touring partner Robyn Hitchcock has agreed to all my conditions. We recorded and mixed a cd in 7 days (with the invaluable assistance of the great engineer Jerry Boys) and we’re both delighted with it. It will emerge on YepRoc sometime in 2014 (provisional title “The Man Upstairs”) and you can judge for yourselves if the Boyd approach works or not.