When Maggie Roche died in 2017, the world lost an ingenious songwriter, a graceful and inventive guitarist, and an unforgettable singer. Two years later, two different fans—Doug Sclar and Pat Tessitore—sent her younger sister Terre Roche tapes of live recordings of the sisters’ performances Terre had never heard before. Sclar’s recording was from their performances in San Diego in 1975, and Tessitore’s were from Albany, NY, in 2000.
“When I first received the tapes,” Terre recalls, “I broke down in tears. I wouldn’t have been a musician if it hadn’t been for Maggie.”
She called up her dear friend Michael Tannen who, in 1975, was Paul Simon’s business partner and was instrumental in getting Maggie and Terre Roche signed for their first album, Seductive Reasoning (1975). She thought Tannen would love to hear these live recordings. She was right. Along with the help of others, Tannen and Roche put together a 15-track album that collects these previously unreleased live recordings. The result is Kin Ya See That Sun, an album and accompanying book that will release this Friday, October 21.
“The project came together in an extremely organic way,” Roche says. “These live tapes can’t be mixed, and they are what they are, but Thomas Millioto did an excellent job of restoring and mastering them. They brought me back to those early years.”
“I didn’t have any recordings myself,” she adds. “In a fit of ‘I want to move on,’ Maggie threw away all the music I was involved in.”
The sisters started playing guitar together in 1964, when Maggie was 13 and Terre was 12. “We learned how to play guitar from a PBS show called Folk Guitar with Laura Weber,” Roche recalls. “As soon as Maggie started learning to play guitar, she started writing songs immediately. … We didn’t live in a town that had a lot of musical influences and [it] was heavily Republican. My father had a friend who was in charge of the Democratic Club of Park Ridge, and he suggested that maybe Maggie and I should come play for them.”
In the summer of 1970, their father took them to Greenwich Village to audition for Izzy Young’s folk music show at WBAI. Dave Van Ronk was visiting Young that day. He heard the sisters and took them around the corner to meet his wife and manager Terri Thal. As luck would have it, Thal was able to help the sisters get a gig at the storied Village venue, the Bitter End, and an audition for the college coffee house circuit. Thal also told the sisters that Paul Simon was teaching a songwriting course at NYU. According to Terre, “Maggie ambushed him” one day when he entered the building where the class met. He invited them into the course.
The sisters soon set off on a two-year tour of college campuses across the country, playing six nights a week. “I was 17, and Maggie was 18, and we traveled by ourselves playing guitar and singing for two years. It gave us a chance to learn our craft by trial and error. Maggie wrote the songs.”
Many of the songs they played during those years made it onto their first album Seductive Reasoning, which was produced by Simon and Paul Samwell-Smith, and featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
“Maggie knew how to sing harmony intuitively,” Roche says. “She would teach me how to sing the melody of a song. Then I would play second-guitar to what she was doing.”
The singular beauty of Kin Ya See That Sun is that we can hear the sisters working out guitar and vocal parts as they are arranging the songs. The sparseness of their arrangements shimmers exquisitely, and these versions from 1975 and 2000 reverberate in our hearts as we hear them.
The album includes moving versions of classics such as “Telephone Bill,” “If You Emptied Out All Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change,” “Damned Old Dog,” “West Virginia,” and “Malachy’s.” It also includes two never-before-heard songs (“The Colleges” and “Apostrophe to the Wind”) plus two exclusive outtakes from Seductive Reasoning: “Pretty and High” and “Moonruns.” Producer Samwell-Smith sent Terre these last two tracks 37 years after the duo made the record.
When he first heard the recordings Roche was sent, Tannen had an idea to find as many of the people who had worked with Maggie and Terre as possible, as well as people who were affected by their albums, and record interviews with them. They spoke with Thal as well as Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls—who were heavily influenced by the Roches—and many others. A QR code in the booklet allows folks to listen to the songs as they read the lyrics and interviews. Further, Terre’s drawings bring the lyrics and set lists to life. “I’ve always loved to draw,” she says. “I never had any instruction. I have every single Roches’ concert set list. I would make these elaborate pictures of the list and art related to the towns we were in. Something quirky.”
Kin Ya See That Sun captures spots of time in which we glimpse Maggie and Terre honing their craft. More importantly, we can hear the spiritual connection between the sisters as their voices wind around one another and their guitar parts weave through their vocals. We can feel the emotions flowing through the speakers as the sisters sing in their electrifying, crystalline voices.
“Working on this project,” says Terre, “has brought me back to the deep spiritual connection that Maggie and I shared. I’ve never seen the melded/bonded thing that we had [anywhere else]. We became incredibly close. I felt like we were the same person, even though we were opposite, personality-wise.”
Looking back all the way to the beginning of their musical collaboration, she adds, “Something that we did speaks to having confidence in yourself. I mean, we were driving across the country by ourselves, and we were working on our music, but we didn’t know what would happen after those two years [on the college circuit].
“I’ve learned that if you plunge yourself into the doing of it,” she says, “somebody is going to notice what you’re doing.”
Kin Ya See That Sun is available HERE.