Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sisters: The Roches

The Roches: The Troubles


“We are Maggie and Terre and Suzzy, Maggie and Terre and Suzzy Roche…” Those were the first words I ever heard from the Roche sisters. Their self-tiled debut was a delightful surprise in 1979. That was a great year for debut albums, also including Dire Straits, Rickie Lee Jones, and Steve Forbert, just to name a few. But the Roches were astounding in part for seeming to be a folk act on a major label. Suzanne Vega and others would soon follow, but, at the time, this was truly remarkable. Of course, that debut album was produced by Robert Fripp, who also added background noises on electric guitar, so I might have guessed that things weren’t quite so simple. Indeed, they plugged in the next year for their follow-up album Nerds. It was during the Nerds tour that I saw what was one of the most disappointing concerts of my life. The Roches came to Princeton with a rhythm section behind them, and played an incredibly loud concert that drowned out the subtle pleasures I so loved about them. Happily, in time they came to realize that the softer sound heard here was their strong suit, and this is how they perform these days.

Play the video above, and you will hear the playfulness and the close harmonies that distinguish the Roches’ sound. You will also hear the unvarnished tone in the vocals that you will either love as being direct and honest, as I do; or the sound will grate on your ears, because one hears it so seldom. This is a group that my wife and I disagree on, with her falling in the latter camp. But I can never hear the best work of the Roche sisters without smiling. Music can do more than that, but sometimes that smile is enough.

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