Saturday, February 2, 2008

That's Random: I Heart Mary Margaret

So Nick finally rigged up a contraption that lets us wirelessly stream all of the music on our computer through high-quality speakers in the living room, and he's been busy uploading hundreds and hundreds of our sadly neglected CDs. (Plus a bunch of new ones -- if you don't have it already, you must run out immediately and purchase Raising Sand, the hauntingly gorgeous collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. I know the pairing sounds weird, but it totally works.)

Anyway, we've been happily rediscovering our CD collection and reigniting some of the passion for music that drew us together in the first place (we did meet in a record store, after all).

One of my favorite rediscoveries has been Mary Margaret O'Hara's sublime Miss America. I haven't heard it for ten years or more, but I can still sing right along, its every note and lyric indelibly burned onto my brain from thousands of listenings during my impressionable youth.

You've probably never heard of her -- and for this, I forgive you. Though she was sort of a cult icon in her native Canada and in the U.K., where I was living when the album came out, she never really gained any recognition in the States. So here's a brief dossier:

She's the sister of actress Catherine O'Hara (of Home Alone fame and pretty much every movie that Christopher Guest has ever made). She released just one full-length album, more years ago than I care to recall. She's revered by musicians such as Radiohead, R.E.M., Morrissey, and Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh. (I wouldn't be surprised if fellow Canadian chanteuse Feist was weaned on her, too.) She's undeniably a total wackjob -- producer Andy Partridge of XTC reportedly quit the album after just one day because he couldn't deal with her eccentricities. Her, umm, "dancing" is disturbing at best.

But here's the most important thing to know about O'Hara: She has the voice of an angel (and, occasionally, a demon), and she made an album that is as exquisite and timeless today as the day it was released. It's still available -- and it needs to be in your music library. (One reviewer's take: "My initial reaction was, 'What is this woman on?' It takes a few listens to get used to O'Hara's idiosyncratic style, but it gradually works its magic.")

Did I do a decent job of piquing your curiosity? If so, here's a little sampling of the Mary Margaret experience -- but remember, I warned you about the dancing:

P.S. If you live in the Toronto area, Miss O'Hara is apparently still kicking around in the clubs there.


Anonymous said...

I just got into Mary Margaret O'Hara this week and have been looking for everything she's ever touched! Her voice is one of the most powerful I've ever heard. Really inspiring control of her instrument, and such sense of expression.

Good to find a fellow admirer!

katiedid said...

I think our musical tastes are pretty in sinc! I am an Alison Krauss fan and am going to look into this one right away. Also very interesting info on M.M. O'Hara.I will be checking her out too.

Here's one for you: Soundtrack from the movie: "Once" Movie is on Pay Per View right now. Randomly watched it and really liked the music. :)

Leah said...

Ah, Katie -- you've pegged me exactly.

I *loved* the music from Once, so much so that I recommended it here:

(BTW: In addition to this more ethereal stuff, I also love really noisy rock. In fact, we're off to see the Foo Fighters right now.)



JPM said...

I love Raising Sand....thanks for sharing O'Hara. I had no idea!


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