The McGarrigle Sisters Go Beyond Cozy Love Songs

A reissue of their album “Pronto Monto” showcases the duo’s sensitive—and edgy—side.

Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Pronto Monto

Courtesy of Omnivore Recordings

The third longplayer from Canadian folkies Kate and Anna McGarrigle, 1978’s Pronto Monto found the sisters poised to enter the mainstream after two critically acclaimed, underexposed albums. With Anna’s composition “Heart Like a Wheel” about to become a success for Linda Ronstadt, the McGarrigles enlisted producer David Nichtern, who’d previously penned “Midnight at the Oasis,” a left-field hit for Maria Muldaur, in hopes of broadening their appeal. While Nichtern and a host of ace studio players muted the siblings’ eccentricities slightly to create a somewhat more mainstream product, a commercial breakthrough didn’t follow, alas. Regardless, Pronto Monto is an engaging and stirring work that gives full play to their thoughtful songs and tender, playful voices. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the McGarrigles are just sensitive softies. After savoring the cozy love song “Stella by Artois,” check out the caustic “Dead Weight,” which observes, “Your charm’s wearing thin and your voice rings like tin,” among other insults. Wicked!