Words: Amy Keresztes

Sometimes it’s best to stick with a sure thing. You know what I mean? We all have those records that fit every season, ever mood, every epoch in our lives, and we listen to them from start to finish, equally satisfied each time.

For me, one of those is Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Entre Lajeunesse et la sagesse, also known as French Record. Part of the insanely talented clan that also includes Loudon Wainright III and Rufus and Martha Wainwright, sisters Kate and Anna grew up in a mountain village in Quebec. They both attended university in Montreal in the 1960s and took the city’s folk scene by storm. Since then, the duo has recorded a dozen records and performed at venues and festivals all over the world, until Kate’s death in 2010.

The obvious star on French Record is “Complainte pour Ste Catherine,” a swingy, sunny, endlessly hummable song. But I want to focus on the mellower, smoother “Avant la guerre” (“Before the War”), a fitting showcase for the sisters’ perfectly complementary voices. Wreathed with a sense of melancholy and warm nostalgia, and propelled by a chorus of simple yet incredible harmonies, this is a song to fall in love with.

Even if you don’t understand a word of French (and if my 4 years of high school French could be given any kind of estimable value, a large portion of it would have been spent on this record), “Avant la guerre” will stick with you; being one of those remarkable songs that feels as good as it sounds.


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