Grammy-nominated vocalist Kate McGarry, whose most recent release (2012's Girl Talk) scored top honors on many of last year's Best Of lists, will take a slightly different tack on her first release for Sunnyside Records. Genevieve & Ferdinand, an intimate live set which features McGarry's soaring vocals bolstered by Keith Ganz's melodic acoustic guitar stylings, and which will be released on February 4, 2014, spans a dazzling stylistic palette. A mix of original compositions and uniquely imaginative interpretations of songs written by the likes of Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, James Taylor, Toninho Horta, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein, Genevieve & Ferdinand is McGarry's first duo project and highlights the special connection - musical and emotional - between the singer and her husband of 10 years.
Recorded live in concert at Soundpure Studios in Durham, North Carolina, the album is titled after the name the duo performs under. "We both wanted a more poetic band name than just 'Kate and Keith Duo'," explains McGarry. "Genevieve is my middle name. It connects me to a more free spirited side of myself, my inner troubadour, if you will. Keith has always reminded me of Ferdinand, the peaceful bull from that old children's book who only wants to sit under a tree and smell the flowers while the other bulls are fighting. For us, Genevieve & Ferdinand evokes some of the imagery and atmosphere of a playful and mysterious realm we seem to fall into when we make music together."
Genevieve & Ferdinand kicks off with the one track on the album that was not recorded live, a lovely, subtle rendition of Paul Simon's "American Tune." Captured at the couple's home in a single take, Ganz says that "when you hear Kate sing in person, it always feels like a movie is starting. What was just a neutral space is transformed into a cinematic land full of magic, mystery and possibility." McGarry echoes the sentiment." Keith's fingerpicking style has a gentle momentum that makes the song flow organically. He investigates a classic song with an ear for what has not been said yet and invites me into that space to meet him."
The original song "Ten Little Indians" is McGarry's musical memoir of her parents' lives, reflected in the eyes of their ten children. It's a poignant paean of gratitude, a tender exploration of the joys and sorrows of lives well lived and filled with love. "During their lives, my parents taught us to work together, to sing together and to pray together; from their deathbeds they taught more than I could ever imagine about those same things," says McGarry.
McGarry's long standing affinity for Brazilian music is evidenced on the duo's energetic medley of Toninho Horta's and Pat Metheny's "Aquelas Coisas Todas/Aqui O/Third Wind." "Keith's virtuosic and adventurous guitar accompaniment is a wonder to behold and inspired a spontaneous scat solo," states McGarry. "We like to play songs that take us out on a limb during every live set, and I sure do feel that on this song. It's 'Mr. Toad's Wild Ride' for me!"
There's no doubt who McGarry is singing about on the album's languorous take on Jerome Kern's and Oscar Hammerstein's "Can't Help Loving That Man." The openness and playful sense of swing that marked the duo's first performance of this song some ten years back - serendipitously on Valentine's Day - at NYC's Cornelia Street Café, still resonates in performance today.
The duo cite Devon Sproule and her husband Paul Curreri among their favorite songwriters, and compositions from both are featured on Genevieve & Ferdinand. Sproule's starkly beautiful "Plea for a Good Night's Rest" allows McGarry space to demonstrate all the riches of her singing - the soulful timbres and textures of her voice, storytelling full of wisdom, wonder and honesty, and ringing melodies that sparkle like gemstones. "Keith introduced me to their music on our third date, and suffice to say, the deal was sealed," remembers McGarry. "They played at our wedding five months later."
James Taylor's "Line 'Em Up" is reset over an atmospheric pulse. "It can be a challenge to create a fresh cover of a song by such an iconic artist," says Ganz. "'Line 'Em Up' has enough twists and turns that I was able to expand on the chords to create a little different setting for Kate without feeling like I was abusing the poignancy of the composition."
Ganz's original, "Mr. Long Gones," was originally written as a solo guitar piece, inspired by the aforementioned Paul Curreri. "Kate's voice feels like a natural extension of my melodies, and she gives wings to the melody on the bridge in a way that would have been very difficult to achieve by myself," says the composer. "Keith's compositions bring me back to nature," explains McGarry. "Hearing this song is like going on a slow walk through the woods with him, and seeing the smallest details of a running stream through his playful eyes and fingers."
The duo return to the classics with Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance," which McGarry first recorded as the opening track on her Grammy-nominated album, If Less is More...Nothing is Everything. Ganz's dramatic reworking of the tune is even more striking in the duo setting. "When I listen to Keith's playing, I never hear a guitar accompanying a singer. Instead he creates subtle melodic and rhythmic themes that shift and expand as the song and story I am singing unfolds," says McGarry.
Theo Bleckmann, the iconoclastic singer and long time friend of McGarry's, along with Australian vocalist Gian Slater contribute exquisite vocals to Bleckmann's arrangement of Todd Rundgren's "Pretending to Care." The densely layered harmonies create a vivid contrast for the starkness of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," which follows.
Genevieve & Ferdinand concludes with Paul Curreri's contemplative "Beneath a Crozet Trestle Bridge." McGarry inhabits every nuance of Curreri's rustic imagery and the duo rides Ganz's driving guitar to a close, leaving the audience on an audible high.
released February 4, 2014
Kate McGarry - voice
Keith Ganz - guitar
Theo Bleckmann - voice (9)
Gian Slater - voice (9)