Kathy Larisch - vocals, guitar, autoharp; Carol McComb - vocals, guitar, autoharp; Curt Bouterse - backing vocals on "My Dixie Darling" and "Elysian"
Kathy & Carol's performance was captured at the historic Ash Grove on January 27th, 1967. Though they only released one album together, they were a popular group on the mid-'60s, California folk circuit, sharing the stage with artists like Taj Mahal. The duo frequently performed at Ash Grove. This recording, like all others from this archive, boasts top-notch sound.
Their music recalls the popular folk music of Joan Baez and early Joni Mitchell, but their powerful, graceful harmonies stand out from other artists of the era. They have the rare ability to subtly vocally complement each other, indicative of the kind of musical connection that is cultivated by years of singing together. In a scene dominated by solo artists, Kathy & Carol's interplay was a breath of fresh air. You can hear the influence of country-based folk singers like Pete Seeger and Doc Watson in their twangy melodies, especially on a capella number "Cruel Mother", and "My Dixie Darling."
While they are best known for their ethereal vocal harmonies, the duo also shows off impressive musical chops. Both women take turns on the autoharp, but most of the time they both play guitar. Their sophisticated finger picking and complex interplay is especially apparent on the folky "John of Hazelgreen" and "Claude Allen," which is more than a little reminiscent of Dick Burnett's folk standard "Man of Constant Sorrow." This rare recording serves as a reminder that not all great musicians top the charts or have lengthy recording careers.
Kathy Larisch and Carol McComb grew up in Vista, California, a suburb north of San Diego. They began making music together in high school, and slowly cultivated a musical bond that would see them share stages with artists like Phil Ochs and Linda Ronstadt. In the winter of 1964, the duo went into the studio to record the songs that would make up 1964's Kathy & Carol (Elektra), their only major-label release of the 1960s. The record was made up of mostly retooled folk ballads. Though the group worked to put its own individual stamp on the standards, McComb and Larisch were determined to perform the songs in the spirit of the original versions.
Due to struggles with various record labels, they didn't release a follow-up for the rest of the decade, eventually disbanding at the end of the '60s. Larisch quit the music business and taught at the California College of the Arts. McComb continued to write and record material, both as a solo artist and with other groups.
In 2010, Kathy & Carol finally released a second album, Keepsake, and are performing regularly once again. Elektra has also recently re-released Kathy & Carol, which had long since been out of print.
Written by Alan Bershaw