Great Picking, Singing, and Songs on ‘Kin Ya See That Sun,’ a Fitting Tribute to the Late Maggie Roche
The Roches in 1980 (L to R): Suzzy, Maggie, Terre
By Blair Jackson
Terre and Maggie Roche
Kin Ya See That Sun
One of the coolest releases of 2022, Kin Ya See That Sun brings together 15 previously unreleased live and studio tracks by two of the three singing Roche sisters, Terre and Maggie, who were a performing folk duo dating back to their teen years before sister Suzzy Roche joined them and they put out their still-astonishing, Robert Fripp–produced 1979 debut album, The Roches. That album came out four years after Maggie and Terre’s Seductive Reasoning, and this set contains live versions from 2000 of eight of the songs from that little-known gem of an album, as well as early duo recordings of two of the classics tunes on The Roches, “Pretty and High” (from a 1973 studio session), and “Damned Old Dog” (from a 1975 club appearance). The package for the album alone (available as a download) is worth the price of the record: a 68-page booklet that’s loaded with never-before seen photos, newspaper and magazine clippings, artwork, lyrics, and stories and tributes from friends. It all feels very intimate, homegrown, colorful, and quirky—a required adjective in all Roches reviews; always appropriate.
The sisters’ instantly identifiable vocal harmonies are of course in evidence throughout the album, as is the blend of tunes that range from classic folk tropes to odd, sometimes funny musings on life that can sound like bits of overheard conversation (or someone thinking out loud). Maggie, who died in 2017, was the most prolific songwriter of the Roches—she had an undeniable ear for both poetry and the way people actually think and speak. Maggie was also the strongest guitarist of the sisters (all three play), and listening to her and Terre’s superb fingerpicking and strumming in this duo setting really shows their deep roots in the folk and country blues they were exposed to growing up and which is the base of their sound.
An innocent query asking Terre Roche whether she remembered what acoustic guitars might have been played on the 1973 and ’75 recordings, brought this charming and surprisingly detailed reply:
“Yes! We both played Martin guitars at that time. We had saved up to buy two D-28s at Manny’s [Music] on 48th Street [in New York City]. The very first time we flew on a plane—on our way out to Fargo, North Dakota, on the ‘Coffee House Circuit’—my guitar arrived with the neck broken in two. We didn’t know you had to slack the strings down before putting a guitar in the baggage hold. Years later, we bought a seat and put all the guitars in one seat with a seatbelt extension. Leigh Hantho brought us to the local music store in Fargo, where I bought a new 000-28. So both guitars on the early tracks were Martins.
“On the later 2000 recordings, I’m pretty sure we both played Martins—model 000C-16RGTE. Over the years I went through many different guitars—a Gibson, a Stratocaster, a Gurian, a custom-made Goodall, a Gibson Trini Lopez electric, several different Taylors, a Vagabond travel guitar, and a Takamine nylon-string (played on this release for the song ‘Blabbermouth’). The Vagabond was the first model I’d ever seen of a travel guitar. I used it as my main stage guitar played through effects pedals rather than dealing with bringing a full-size guitar on the airplanes. Today I play my favorite guitar, a Collings. But Maggie mainly played Martins.”
(Photo at top: The Roches in 1980 (L to R): Suzzy, Maggie, Terre)