Critics have tried, and I think failed to pin down exactly what makes Patty Larking tick, and why she holds such a unique position in the world of acoustic music. She has been called everything from a musician's musician, to an inventive singer and guitarist, to a fine songwriter. She is certainly the proverbial triple threat with extraordinary talents as a player, a singer and a songwriter. What has been missed is that she is simply an artist without peer. There are certainly others who have had similarly lengthy and noteworthy careers, but no one has continued to reinvent themselves and has amassed a body of work that extends our notion of acoustic music in quite the way that Patty Larkin has done. Larkin has been writing and recording music in her studio on Cape Cod for some time. Red=Luck is the result of years of honing her craft, gathering the best studio musicians, and coming out with a sound that captures the listener from the first note to the last. It's a remarkable achievement; a feast for the ears.
Patty Larkin writes music like a painter laying brush strokes on canvas. And like a painter she creates layers of sound and color to invoke mood and tone. The CD opens with a beautiful, layered guitar track in All That Innocence. Marc Shulman on electric guitars helps Larkin portray the many faces of change - changes in weather, changes in seasons, changes of the heart.
Almost every song is worthy of some praise and special mention, but I will only highlight a few more here. The Cranes is a tune that Larkin wrote, she states in the liner notes, as she came upon a crane migration - the cranes filled up a half-mile wide swath of sky. The resulting song is mesmerizingly beautiful, with a slow, simple melody - chiefly Larkin's vocals accompanied by her acoustic guitar with some backing by Jeff Lang on slide. One can hear a Middle Eastern influence as well as a touch of the Far East. Flight, loss and change are the themes here.
Larkin has not been one to shy away from important social issues over the years. Birmingham is a bass and percussion driven song with an upbeat, engaging melody and meaningful, beautifully written lyrics about poverty and living life on the edge.
Both Too Bad and Different World would do well as singles on popular radio for their rock/soft rock melodies, catchy choruses and superb musicianship. Take Larkin's musical sensibilities, supple voice and rich guitar, add in guitar greats Duke Levine and Marc Shulman with Ben Wittman on percussion and shake.
Saving the best for last, Inside Your Painting is so much fun, I dare you to listen to it and stand still. Larkin once again takes her musical canvas and splashes color with changes in vocalizations and chords, portraying dark and light. The mood is mostly upbeat:
I am going to go out on a limb and declare Patty Larkin's Red=Luck the best folk/acoustic CD of the year. Larkin has done much over the years to stretch the boundaries of what we call acoustic music, and to create a truly original sound. With "Red=Luck" she not only creates a new sound, which wows us with its brilliant musicality, but she gives us wonderful songs and melodies that we want to sing along with and celebrate again and again. "Red=Luck" is full of joy and color and rich sounds. It is a brilliant artistic achievement, which like the rarest of gems, will shine for many years to come. Bravo!
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