Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You is a Wainwright Family Sing-Along


The miracle of Rufus Wainwright’s voice—that it can be at once so strong and so tender—is also the miracle of Wainwright’s family, both in temperament and talent, right back to the singing and songwriting of Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s mother, Kate McGarrigle, and her sister Anna. A song like Kate’s “Talk to Me of Mendocino” unfolds like a map of plaintive, universal feeling, even as the exact destinations it charts it are wholly specific to her. That song and a host of other sun-touched folk numbers from the late Canadian singer receive stirring treatment in Lian Lunson’s Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You, a stirring performance film documenting a Town Hall tribute concert organized by the Wainwrights and Anna McGarrigle in 2011, a year after Kate’s death. Those three singers put the songs over beautifully, each reading a highlight; often, tears slick their cheeks. Guests Norah Jones and Emmylou Harris are likewise fine, and Jimmy Fallon, despite some nervous schtick, capably handles “The Swimming Song,” that pluckish gem originally by Loudon Wainwright III, Kate’s ex-husband. The film is both celebration and elegy, a sing-along and a cry-along, a cathartic moan and a perfect bliss-out. If you somehow manage to stay dry-eyed through the concert numbers, the end should set you bawling: a recording of Rufus and Martha as kiddos, singing a French-Canadian Christmas carol—the last piece of music that the family ever got to play for Kate McGarrigle.