The best news to emerge from Kate and Anna McGarrigle's concert at the National Geographic Society last night was the announcement that the Montreal sisters will be releasing their first album in seven years this August. They sang only a couple of new songs last night, but Kate's "I Eat Dinner" and Anna's "The Bike Song" both captured the difficulty of pursuing romance in one's mid-forties. Both featured the sisters' usual blend of literate wit and lovely folk harmonies and raised hopes that the new album may bring forth a new batch of folk-rock standards.
Kate and Anna switched around among piano, acoustic guitar, button accordion, banjo and mandolin on various songs. They were joined by a third McGarrigle sister, Jane, on harmony vocals and by fiddler Joel Zifkin and guitarist Alan Cowan. The show often seemed under-rehearsed and ragged at the edges, but the sisters' transparent goodwill and the emotional pull of their song-writing carried the day. They sang old folk songs and their own compositions in both French and English, and they introduced two charming nature songs by the 75-year-old Canadian songwriter Wade Hemsworth. The show's highlights were Anna's penetrating tale of a divorced mother, "Sun, Son," and Kate's classic song about long-distance love, "(Talk to Me of) Mendocino."