Vocalist Kate McGarry’s singular skill at interweaving pop, folk and jazz has been evident since her recording debut a dozen years ago. But in 2006, with the Grammy-nominated If Less Is More … Nothing Is Everything, she advanced to a higher plateau. Not coincidentally, that album marked the arrival of McGarry’s husband, guitarist Keith Ganz, as her musical lodestar. Their sublime partnership reaches a fresh apex across these 11 acoustic tracks, all but one recorded live in a studio near their home in Durham, N.C. The title combines McGarry’s middle name with her pet name for her spouse, borrowed from the storybook bull who’d rather sniff flowers than fight.
On these duets their organic purity, how they complete one another’s musical sentences, is truly magical. Consider, for instance, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” darkly, stealthily rendered on If Less Is More but here transformed into an indigo reverie, trembling between trepidation and anticipation. Other covers tailor-fit to their shared sensibility include Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” James Taylor’s serpentine “Line ‘Em Up” and, revolving like a storm-clouded carousel, Todd Rundgren’s “Pretending to Care” featuring Theo Bleckmann and Australian vocalist Gian Slater.
McGarry, one of 10 children, examines familial joys and challenges in the reflective “Ten Little Indians,” then floats wordlessly atop Ganz’s “Mr. Long Gones.” Their close friend Devon Sproule contributes “Plea for a Good Night’s Rest,” a marvelous olio of nocturnal threats and comforts, and Sproule’s husband, Paul Curreri, adds the restive, yearning “Beneath a Crozet Trestle Bridge.”