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The Roches Whisper In The Wind

Is that a dulcimer I see before? Sure sounds like one and since the Roches best album Keep On Doing’s best song “On The ROad To Fairfax County” was written by Dacid Massengell -a folkie reprobate who knows his way round the instrument -listen his original for starters, just maybe the Roches third album, second with Eno’s buddy Robert Fripp producing, it would make sense. But I don’t think. This album is so minimal it’s possible they decided just about everything was getting in the way of Suzzy, Maggie and Terre’s harmonies.

On “Fairfax County” a woman meets a Highway robber who sticks her up, steals her heart and gives her her money back, on the way to meet and elope, “Love betrays all secrets, it whispers in the wind”, but the Sheriff and his deputies are waiting, they hang the robber and the woman is left to mourn. The song is a harmonized lament, beautiful and timeless, the sisters songs merge in a keeling of lost. It is the strongest and saddest and along with “I Fell In Love” the very next sung, the heart of “Keep On Doing”, Terre and Suzzy with Suzzy leading the way and the two other sisters joining mid song or taking the lead while the girls sing background. It is as strong as the Roche songs.

Both songs are deadly serious but the Roches aren’t, “Steady With The Maestro” by actor songwriter George Gerdes song of a relationship going south and something of a Gerdes autobiography is finely served with even a whistling interlude and a sprite tempo and “The Largest Elizabeth In The World” functions on a speedy chorus of “Slow dowd”> It’s fun stuff.

Actually “Keep On Doing is a major fun album, the sisters are natural pop stars (they’ve sung back up for Paul Simon) with the folk arena and the song seems to have no great faith in big gestures, instead, in a very modern manner, everything about it is toned back and at service of the songs they’ve written. So is King Crimson stalwart Robert Fripp and you’d expect a progressive like him to fight against the sensibility of smallness. Not lo-fi but a toning down of the wide 60s folk acting which drowned the genre in smugness and loathing.

This is closer to Elizabethan folk -more Sandy Denny than Joan Baez, and it stands their intricate three point harmonies well. The girls toss the vocals back and forth, the deeper voiced Maggie playing low and the middle sister Terre and effervescent Suzzy above them. This playfulness gave them one of their biggest hits, the first song on this album, “The Hallelujah Chorus” sung Capella.

The Roches have never really broken up but they don’t play together all the time so be sure to see them at the Highline on September 15th. And get hold of this terrific folk album

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