Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle [Nonesuch, 2013]
The ritual passing of the songbook from tart old folkies to sweet-and-sour showbiz kids worked better as theater, where we don't get to re-examine the performances, than it does as recorded music, where we're able to ponder just how the kids remodeled the house and put in that piano-shaped hot tub. But though Rufus's and especially Martha's oversinging stretches some of Mom's songs well beyond their limits, it's a hell of a songbook, and in the end it's the lesser material that fares worse, not the less experienced performers. Aunt Peggy Seeger is no more impressive than the youngish gender mixers whose names you'll forget again without the credits, and it's a shock to realize that a youngish gender mixer whose name you know delivers a "Go Leave" more heart-wrenching than Richard and Linda Thompson's. Almost as shocking is that the next best thing isn't a Kate song. It's Chaim Tannenbaum and the gang's "Travelling On for Jesus." A-