Talk To Me of Mendocino

I have a small vial of Persian water. It sits on my desk here at PaisleyTunes West. It was a gift from a holy man to my wife and I and it brings us peace of mind to feel like we can hold a brief second of such a powerful natural force; an exercise feasible without the small gold-hatted vial. What moves us to become religious, spiritual, reverent and conversely combative and self-righteous are the pieces of the world rushing by us, floating beyond us, and growing tall above us.

I think this notion is what drives us here at PaisleyTunes. The opportunity to give our readers depth of understanding and perspective is a challenge and a thrill and may amount, someday, to our very own musical poem. But until then, we’re challenged to filter through that which already exists and help it float to the top, foam on the waves.

Since the *temporary* schism of PT-Perspective in the last few years, PT-West has sought to better understand the depth of differences defining the beauty of the East and majesty of West, the nuance of our Southern deserts and linearity of the in-betweens. We seek out those who write for us, so it’s not this paragraph that tells it, but the blue link at the bottom.

Talk To Me Of Mendocino

Debuted on the 1975 album Kate and Anna McGarrigle, “Talk to me of Mendocino,” or simply “Mendocino,” embodies our search.

Kate, from Montreal, Canada and wife of Louden Wainwright III and mother of Rufus Wainwright, wrote the song in Ann Arbor, Michigan, telling of the trees of New York, the plains of the great basin, and the magnificent Rockies all within the context of California’s coastal redwoods.

Unlike my first impressions, this song isn’t about the Mason Jennings California, nor escapism or adventure. It’s about the eighth-ounce of water I have on my desk. It’s about the story of natural grandeur that fills out our dreams and memories and temporarily becomes our reality, thirty-five hundred miles away. Reminiscent of a Michener axiom, Kate sets you down in a land where only the rocks remain, where the sun sets on the ocean before it rises again over the redwoods, delivering you to Montalvo’s California.

Kate’s sounds encompassed the folk-rock of the 1970s, and while well known for her performances, her career was certainly driven by her writing and she and her sister enjoyed and suffered many demonstrations of ubiquitous song versioning.

In 1977 the English duo Julie Mairs & Chris Stowell grabbed the song for “Sea Soft Blue” (remade in 2004) absolutely drowning the song in the soft soft sea. Then, Tucson native and folk rock superstar Linda Ronstadt grabbed “Mendocino” for her 1982 Gold album, “Get Closer”, and the song experienced a renewed life.

While no other major artists ran the song with such powerful results as the McGarrigle and Ronstadt circuits, it enjoyed a healthy life nonetheless.

In 1980 Pricilla Herdman produced an terrifyingly operatic version. In July of 2004, the English mother daughter duo, Chris and Kellie White, performed the song on their eponymous album, belting the story through the speakers and undoing Kate, Anna and Linda’s vocal instrumentation. In 2007, John Howard‘s version, on his EP “The Bewlay Brothers,” was a mediocre demonstration of mediocre skills, to give accolades. In October of 2008, Liam Clancy, and his concertina, shanty’d the song. Sadly, as this author is a shanty enthusiast, the whisky sound was was diluted to island beer with Mary Black overlaid vocals, perhaps as a gesture to the soft landlubbers, whom ever they be. And in 2010, or close to it, New Yorker Cara Lane covered the song with an absolute lack of fanfare.

However, in 2011 a Minneapolis choral group recorded the song on a three track eponymous EP. Later that year, Nona Marie & The Choir, stopped at a barn in Iowa for a show, recording Menocino, among many others during this Barnstormer Session, with such success that they stopped by DayTrotter studios a few months after and shared once again. Their subtle, true-to-form styling of the song has given “Mendocino” yet another life into and through the neo-folk-old-furniture-barn-yard-thick-rimmed-glasses-hipster scene and it pleases me.

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2 thoughts on “Talk To Me of Mendocino

  1. Wonderful.

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  2. Great review, great tunes!

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