When the All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse finishes up its fall series with a show this Friday, Dec. 10, it will be a show worth celebrating. Although the season has already been quite impressive with stellar performances by Little Feat members Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett, Todd Snider and Kevin Welch, the season closer just might quietly steal the thunder of its predecessors.
When Patty Larkin takes the stage with her acoustic guitar, it won't simply be as a singer/songwriter. Of course, that is her forte, but after 25 years as a recording artist, she has become one of the female voices of a generation, paving the way for other female songwriters from Paula Cole and Sarah McLaughlin to current up and comers like Meiko, Jessie Baylin, Sarah Barielles and even our own Samantha Crain.
Over the course of that career, Larkin has released a dozen albums and become known as a musician's musician, holing true to her own styles while consistently proving to be not only a songwriter of amazing depth, but also an impressive guitar player. As Larking neared the quarter century mark in her career, however, she stopped to look back with her latest release, 25, collecting an appropriate 25 songs and rerecording them as duets with many of her close friends and peers. As such, some of the songs were allowed to flourish, while others were reinterpreted and become something new and different.
I was unable to chat directly with Larkin last week as her schedule saw her returning home to visit with her sick father, but she was gracious enough to answer a few questions via e-mail. Although this isn't my normal more of interviewing, Larkin's thoughtful reflections on the songs, her career and her peers shed a little light not only on her as a person and performer, but what kind of show we can expect when she arrives in town this weekend. That said, I'll let Ms Larkin speak for herself...
Urban Tulsa Weekly: When looking back at your career and revisiting your songs for this latest album, did any of the songs in particular take on a new light or meaning to you when re-recording? Or perhaps approaching that with a slightly different analogy: It's often been said that songs are kind of like your children, so you can't pick a favorite. As your children grow, however, part of the joy is seeing them come into their own and develop their own personalities. Did any of these songs stand out as having developed a different personality than you may have originally expected?
Patty Larkin: "I think the biggest surprise for me was the song 'Lately'. It is the oldest song in my songbook, and one that I had stopped singing at live shows. I kept trying to rework it over the years to fit it into my present day style, but my efforts were not successful. I decided to sing it as written, a bit more soulfully, with a guitar part that does not reflect the major and minor sevenths, so it's more rootsy (literally). Overall the surprises were the vocal interpretations of the tunes ... more mature, of course, but I think they show a depth that has evolved over the years, an honesty and freshness that I was pleased to be able to touch upon."
UTW: Approaching these songs as a retrospective, but doing them each as a duet or collaboration had to put some new twist on each song. Was there anyone in particular that you were especially looking forward to working with or you felt really put their stamp on our work in the process?
Larkin: "'Lately', with Martin (Sexton)'s soaring soulful vocal and whistle (!), and "Pablo Neruda" with Suzanne (Vega)'s vocal verse on it are wonderful new updates. Jonatha Brooke's reworking of 'Only One' created a brand new soundtrack for a song that I rarely perform. Each and every song really came alive with the added interpretations of my friends."
UTW: Who have you been particularly impressed with or influenced by over the course of your career - either from working with them or by their influence as a peer?
Larkin: "That's a tough one, because everyone on this album has had an influence on me, has inspired me, and continues to do so. People not on? Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson."
UTW: Are there any new artists developing right now that impress you or you foresee developing with an extended, evolving career, much as your own has?
Larkin: "There are. People who are up and running are the Be Good Tanyas, Wailin' Jennies, Neko Case. These artists have attained a good measure of success, though. There is so much good new music out there, and many new up and comers who are on their way to a long run. I am not great with names, but there is movement forward, and there will be a continuation of the kind of music I do for some time to come."
UTW: Finally: normally, in a conversation, I tend to leave the floor open for discussion. If there is anything specific you'd like to address with this album and/or tour, please feel free to open up and fire away...
Larkin: "This year has really opened up my horizons musically and personally. I have toured and done shows with many of the people on this double CD set, and it is a joy to be joined by friends as I travel and perform across the country and internationally as well. I wish, in a way, that I had run a recorder for many of the drives, because there was much laughter and a good dose of honesty involved. These artists have seen the scene change over time as I have, yet they are still exploring what it means to continue making beautiful music, and to balance their lives and their art. Bottom line: I had fun. I am continuing to be inspired by what I hear and see around me, and that's a good thing!"
When Larkin arrives for an intimate acoustic show at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse this weekend, it's not as a performer in the twilight of her career, but as one looking back as she's reaching a new plateau. After 25 years worth of music, Larkin's latest releases have been amongst her most heralded and the creativity juices continue to flow, even when reflecting on her previous work, as 25 proves emphatically.
Don't miss Larkin and a glimpse of a true songwriter and pet as she takes the stage this Friday night at All Souls. Tickets are still available for $15 at ticketstorm.com and the doors open at 7pm as Birdsong at Morning opens the show at 7:30pm.
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