FROM THE VAULT: 1975 Kate and Anna McGarrigle Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Hannibal) Sometimes, all the elements of an album simply work. In this case, the wonderful harmonies of the Canadian McGarrigle sisters, simple arrangements of deeply felt and finely crafted songs, a superb and varied cast of musicians, and a producer who reckoned his job was limited to simply getting what happened in the studio on tape. If the album came out today it would be classified as 'Americana' - mostly acoustic, with plenty of banjo, mandolin, fiddle and accordion, and with elements of jazz, blues, 19th-century parlour ballads and Appalachian hill music all rubbing shoulders. In addition to their own instrumental contributions and those of the folkies with whom they regularly worked, the McGarrigles had the services of some of the top studio players of the era: Steve Gadd on drums, Tony Levin and Red Callender on bass, Lowell George, David Spinozza. Andrew Gold, and Amos Garrett on guitars, David Grisman on mandolin, Plas Johnson on sax and clarinet, and several more. However, the McGarrigles and/ or producer Joe Boyd had the sense to employ all this talent sparingly. The three finest tracks feature the simplest accompaniments, provided mostly by the sisters themselves: Go Leave, addressed by Kate to soon-to-be-ex-husband Loudon Wainwright III; Talk to Me of Mendocino; and the song that probably paid for the sessions, Heart Like a Wheel, already at the time a hit for Linda Ronstadt. But this is the definitive version of the latter, and more than 30 years on the performances of all three songs still have a raw beauty capable of bringing a tear to the eye. Fortunately, the record has plenty of jaunty moments to balance the mournful ones: Wainwright's exuberant Swimming Song; Wade Hemsworth's Foolish You, played with a bluegrass bounce; and the album's opening and closing band performances, Kiss and Say Goodbye and Travellin' on For Jesus, on both of which you can hear how much the musicians are enjoying the session. Complainte Pour Ste-Catherine, the first hint at the French language direction the sisters would take on several future collections, also sounds like fun. They've made good music since, but never an album that really comes close to this one, and although the McGarrigles remain musically active it's Kate's son and daughter, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, who gather the critical plaudits these days. Some of the younger generation's talent must lie in their genes, however, and for fans curious about the family musical tradition from which they emerge, this is the McGarrigle album to find.