Maggie and Suzzy Roche Close Landmark’s Fabulous Folk Series

Amazing harmonies, and anecdotes too, make for a great night of music.

roches-90v2-5eebb616f41f850b7108d7bae3aecd3Two-thirds of The Roches – sisters Maggie and Suzzy (without third sister Terre) – closed out Fabulous Folk Series.

In another “six degrees of Landmark performers separation” it’s worth noting that Suzzy is the mother of a child by Louden Wainwright III, who performed earlier this season, and that Suzzy was also once a member of the group The Four Bitchin’ Babes – who played at Landmark several years ago.

The Roches have been singing together since childhood, and it shows. Their harmonies are inventive, striking and unusual. Both women play the guitar and piano quite proficiently and took turns singing lead vocals – sometimes trading off in the midst of songs.

Aside from their amazing harmonies, the next thing you notice about the Roches is their sense of humor. Their songs are amusing and clever – some, like the absurdly titled “Jesus Shaves” manage to be simultaneously hysterical and touching. The audience laughed out loud throughout a large portion of the show.

They opened with the song “We” – singing “We are Maggie and Suzzy, Maggie and Suzzy Roche. We don’t give out our ages and we don’t give out our phone numbers. Sometimes our voices give out, but not our ages and our phone numbers.” Their songs frequently told stories, such as “The Train,” describing a commuter train ride in great detail. The fact that Maggie and Suzzy are consummate musicians was obvious when they performed Maggie’s “One Season,” during which they had to (purposely) sing out of tune for a portion. Singing out of tune for a musician is incredibly difficult to do – especially while keeping their intonation and harmonics right with each other. The musicians in the audience gasped as the sisters managed this feat.

Other highlights were their songs from the Zero Church project – a series of songs based on prayers that they collected from people, including a Vietnam vet who later became a firefighter. Those songs – “Anyway,” and “A Prayer” were moving and packed with worthwhile advice. A particular favorite of mine was Suzzy’s “Sweetie Pie,” a beautiful pseudo-lullaby with great guitar work (unlike the album version which is piano-based).

Between songs, the sisters regaled the audience with stories and anecdotes about their childhood and their lives as performers. Maggie and Suzzy didn’t bother leaving the stage at the end of their set, telling the audience “Sit down. Don’t overexert yourselves. We’re old. We’re not going to bother walking offstage and coming back. We’ll just play another song right now.”

They closed with an unlikely number, a cover of the Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” that had the audience singing along. It was a wonderful end to a fabulous 2010-2011 folk series.

On May 28, Ben E. King, of “Stand by Me” fame will be appearing at Landmark.