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Patti Larkin: Still Green

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Singer-songwriter Patty Larkin is one of the best of her kind. She belongs to a league of artists who redefined the poetic and instrumental boundaries of the folk singer-songwriter genre such as Greg Brown, Bruce Cockburn and Richard Thompson. She is a wise lyricist and inventive guitarist who can encapsulate a profound emotional experience in few concise, poetic sentences, delivered suggestively with her warm vocals and colored with hypnotic, guitar-based soundscapes.

Still Green, her 13th album, was conceived over the last four years. A time Larkin lost both her parents—the father, a Catholic Buddhist, and the mother,an artist, both were close inspirations—and witnessed her sister, a jazz pianist, suffers a stroke after surgery. So, naturally, the songs focus on Larkins' search for relief and solace and recharge her trust in love, family and nature. Most of the songs were written in a remote, primitive shack on the Outer Banks of Cape Cod's National Seashore, and this beautiful, innocent scene contributed to the fresh approach to sound.

Larkin outlines her doubts about a belief already in the opening song, "Best of Intentions": "The man in the hallway is cleaning up grief / While travellers chase after time like a thief / With oversized bags they wait for relief in the dawn / The Best of Intentions all get up and leave before long." Her assured and reserve vocal delivery and the gentle, chamber accompaniment cloud this dark conclusion. But soon she finds hope and comfort, in the inspiring nature, her partner—"When you turn your face to mine / One more Time" in "It could Be Worse"— herself, simple joys of life and even her daily routine. She never loses her sense of irony and sings "World's coming apart / Wait a minute, let me put my lipstick / I look good in the dark" on "Mando Drums."

The nuanced and delicate arrangements encompass Larkins' emotional delivery and balance it with her exquisite guitar playing, which is much more reserved here than on her previous albums, most notably 25 (Signature sounds, 2010), that celebrated her career with bare arrangements based on her guitar playing. On "Green Behind the Ears," written by poetess Kay Ryan, the thoughtful phrasing of the poetic words—"For it is hard to be green / and take your turn as flesh / So much freshness to unlearn"—follow the subtle melodic thread, sketched on Larkins' acoustic guitar and kalimba, and stressed by cellist Catherine Bent.

Larkin concludes this moving emotional experience with a message of hope spiced with dark humor on "Because of This": "Because of This I've got stories to tell / All those fairy tales pale / Next to all that I feel."

Track Listing: Best of Intentions; Down Through the Wood; It Could Be Worse; Soon As I'm Better; Bon Vivants; Green Behind the Ears; My Baby; Mando Drum; New Hotel; So Cold; Nothing Else Really Matters; Because of This.

Personnel: Patty Larkin: vocals, guitars, bass, piano, mandolin, octave mandolin, loops, organ, keyboards, kalimba; Catherine Bent: cello; Joe McMahon: upright bass; Dave Brophy: drums; Jonatha Brooke: backing vocals (2, 4, 9); Merrie Amsterburg: backing vocals (3, 5, 10); Peter Linton: electric guitar (3); Birdsong at Morning (Alan Williams, Darleen Wilson & Greg Porter): backing vocals (11); Greg Porter: bass (11).

Title: Still Green | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Signature Sounds


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