Sound Advice: Patty Larkin with Iain Matthews (Sept. 15)

Patty Larkin plays Live! at the Ludlow Garage.

click to enlarge Patty Larkin - Photo: Jana Leon
Photo: Jana Leon
Patty Larkin
It’s been an incomprehensible 31 years since Patty Larkin’s debut album, 1985’s Step Into the Light, but the real focus should be placed on everything she has accomplished in the interim and not merely on the first step of her incredible adventure. Larkin’s musical path began with Classical piano lessons at age 7, followed by the revelations that came with her discovery of Folk and Pop a few years later. After teaching herself guitar, the Milwaukee-raised Larkin dabbled in songwriting in high school, which led to coffeehouse gigs on the West Coast as a University of Oregon student.

Upon graduation, Larkin relocated to Boston and busked for change while studying Jazz guitar at the Berklee School of Music; she was subsequently awarded an honorary doctorate from the school. Larkin came to the attention of Rounder Records, which released 1987’s I’m Fine, and her first concert album, 1990’s Live in the Square. Her profile rose dramatically after she signed with Windham Hill’s High Street imprint for her next four acclaimed, if cultishly received, albums, including 1997’s Perishable Fruit.

Throughout this period, Larkin continually challenged herself to find new and fascinating ways to appoint her Folk/Pop foundation with freshly considered modes of musical execution and studio translation. That experimental mindset blossomed with her shift to Vanguard Records in 1999. After the live à Gogo set, Larkin cranked out her masterwork triptych, 2000’s Regrooving the Dream, 2003’s Red=Luck and 2008’s wonderful and completely solo Watch the Sky. In 2010, Larkin celebrated her 25th recording year with 25, a retrospective containing 25 tracks, each performed with accompaniment from 25 friends, including Martin Sexton, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, Rosanne Cash and Suzanne Vega.

Larkin’s last album, Still Green, released almost exactly three years ago, was written in much the same fashion as her landmark album Red=Luck — alone in a Cape Cod shack with just an acoustic guitar. By the time she hit the studio, she had 40 possible tracks to consider, but she and Red=Luck producer Mike Deneen whittled the set list down to a dozen of the most emotionally wrought and performed songs of Larkin’s long and illustrious career. With the three-year gap since Still Green, Larkin may have some new material in hand, as well as some new takes on one of the most beautiful and durable catalogs of the last three decades.

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