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A critic remembers: A proposal over a cup of tea with Maggie Roche

Maggie, Suzzy and Terre Roche in 1979

Maggie, Suzzy and Terre Roche in 1979

The first time I heard “The Roches” album I wanted to marry all three of the singing sisters. The record proved they have almost everything I’ve dreamed of: spirit, intelligence, humor, creativity, warmth, charm and personality.

I wrote that in 1979 when “The Roches,” a brilliant and witty collection of harmony-loving originals produced by Robert Fripp, was released, and I went to New York City to meet the three sisters – and propose.

It was a sunny day in Manhattan, well, as sunny as it seems amid grey skyscrapers. The Roches had a couple of weeks off. Suzzy, the youngest sister, was vacationing in Europe.  Maggie was talking about having a friend over to dinner that evening. And Terre was a bit hungerover but managed to find her way down the block to Maggie’s second-floor Greenwich Village apartment.

Coffee and tea were served. The two Roche sisters settled into opposite ends of an old couch. Maggie caressed a pillow. Terre slurped her coffee. I sipped my tea, Red Zinger, the first time I’d ever experienced that seemingly exotic herbal flavor. Why not be adventurous? After all, I was about to try something bold.

I cleared my throat. Then I popped the big one.

“I fell in love with the album and thought about marring all three of you.”

Maggie looked up at me with her expressive, big brown eyes. She seemed contemplative, as she usually does. But Terre jumped right in, as she usually does.

“How would it work?” she asked.

“You see, I have a three-bedroom house…”

“But where would you sleep?” Terre interrupted.

“In the basement, of course, with your record,” I wisecracked.

Maggie finally smiled. She suggested that we wait and consult Suzzy.

We never did connect with Suzzy.

Postscript: Maggie Roche died Saturday of breast cancer. She was 65.

Kinks legend Ray Davies taps Minnesota's Jayhawks for new album

Tim O'Reagan, Marc Perlman, Karen Grotberg and Gary Louris recorded with Ray Davies in London last January. / Heidi Elhat

Tim O'Reagan, Marc Perlman, Karen Grotberg and Gary Louris recorded with Ray Davies in London last January. / Heidi Ehalt

It’s not the Kinks reunion that fans have been clamoring to hear, but Ray Davies did make a big announcement Monday that should delight devotees of the Jayhawks: The Minnesota country-rock legends served as the backing band on Davies’ first solo album in nine years, “Americana,” due out April 21.

A local rumor that the group kept a tight lid on for a year now, they joined the Kinks frontman at his Konk Studio in London last January. NPR Music debuted the first track from the album this morning, “Poetry” (posted below), in which the Jayhawks’ classic-but-distinctive sound is clearly audible.

Another track on the record, “Message from the Road,” is billed as a duet with the band’s keyboardist Karen Grotberg. One of the Jayhawks’ utility players in recent years, studio ace John Jackson, is listed as co-producer of the record along with Davies and Beatles reissue specialist Guy Massey. The album includes some spoken-word pieces and is loosely based on Davies’ memoir of the same title, “Americana,” which explored his love/hate relationship with England’s former colony.

This is not the first time the Jayhawks have backed a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer like this. They also collaborated with Ray’s brother Dave Davies on one track for his 2013 solo album, “I Will Be Me.” Roger McGuinn of the Byrds also enlisted them for his 1996 album, “Live from Mars.”

Gary Louris & Co. are continuing on with tour dates this spring supporting their own new record, "Paging Mr. Proust," starting with a March 11 date for grand-reopening weekend at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul.

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