NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t


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Singer-songwriter Anna McGarrigle says it took her a long time before she was able to listen to recordings of her performing with her sister Kate (ex-wife of Loudon Wainwright; mother of Rufus Wainwright), who died of cancer last year. She was 63. “It took me a few months,” McGarrigle tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And then I had to do a lot of listening to things and I thought, ‘I’m just going to grit my teeth and do this.’ But every now and then, I heard her sing something and sometimes it would be so unexpected … I’d break out in tears.” In the interview, McGarrigle discusses her relationship with her sister and their music, which The New York Times once described as “bending traditional folk styles, from [their] native Quebec and beyond, toward a contemporary and deeply personal expression.” The McGarrigle Sisters released their first album together in the 1970s, and many more followed, including Pronto Monto and Love Over and Over. Their self-titled debut album, as well as 1977’s Dancer With Bruised Knees, have recently been remastered and reissued as part of Tell My Sister, a new three-disc collection, which also includes several previously unreleased songs and demos. MORE


listen.gifKEN TUCKER:  Loudon Wainwright is not a cult artist by choice. He’s tried for a mass audience in all sorts of ways, including acting jobs on TV shows ranging from M*A*S*H to the 2001 sitcom Undeclared. The latter, a high-quality TV flop, was created by Judd Apatow — now a movie mogul, he’s Wainwright’s most powerful show-business fan and the co-producer of this box set. Apatow, who also cast Wainwright in a small role in Knocked Up, clearly loudon-wainwright-iii-40-odd-years1_1.jpgappreciates the singer’s artistic strategy of eloquent arrested development. An undercurrent of bitterness occasionally seeps into the cracks of Wainwright’s music. You can hear it enunciated in the terrific 1993 Dutch television documentary on this collection’s DVD titled after one of Wainwright’s songs: “One Man Guy.” At one point, he flashes a wide, sour smile as he carries his guitar to another one-man gig and says to the camera, “The world is a terrible place; haven’t you noticed?” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Oh death, where is thy sting? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the winding stanzas of a late-period Loudon Wainwright III song. For more than 40 years, Wainwright has earned his keep as a dark-but-folksy ironist, as funny as Mark Twain on a good day, troubadouring across the fruited plain, looking for and invariably finding the punch lines in the dashed hopes, thwarted dreams and doomed romance of this American life. Which is, admittedly, strikingly ironic for a guy whose biggest hit was a novelty song about a dead skunk on the road. MORE

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