rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 01/24/2006
Folk Hero Patty Larkin to Perform at Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center
by Gary Hill

February 4th will be the date that Patty Larkin graces the stage of Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center. Interesting things have been written about Larkin's personal world of folk music. Amongst the snippets listed on her site are such statements as - "where Beck meets Richard Thompson," "where Beth Orton intersects with Guy Clark" and  "where Me'Shell NdegeOcello melds with Bob Dylan." Having heard her music, I don't think I'd disagree with any of those statements.


Her biography says that, "a guitar focused singer/songwriter, Patty Larkin has immersed herself in a musical world that knows no borders." Again, I'd say this statement hits pretty close to the truth. If you pay attention to what is written at her site, it is obvious that Larkin is all about intersections, both musically and philosophically. Other notable examples from the official source include: "where lost innocence mingles with hope" and "where grief and strength merge into one." The descriptions of her latest release Red=Luck include "a world where the ancient strains of modal folk meet brooding ambient noise. It is a world where Middle-Eastern flavored melodies collide with R&B, where joyous pop and somber reflection, playful eroticism and naked soul searching entwine." All you have to do is listen to a few of the short clips provided at the website to know that these descriptions ring true.


Larkin's love of music came from birth, but she has been all over the country in pursuit her pursuit of skills. A Midwesterner by birth (she was born in Iowa, but grew up in Milwaukee), music was a big part of her family life. She recalls, "my grandmothers both played piano and when we would get together we would sing. I remember being small and standing underneath the keyboard while someone was playing barrelhouse blues and I felt like I had just seen God; it was a great sound to me." She would eventually attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. That school is arguably the most prestigious music school in the country, and has been the fertile ground that has tutored the musical minds of many famous artists including the members of prog rock outfit Dream Theater, and boast amongst its faculty such musical powerhouses as Alex Skolnick and Joe Deninzon. With a background like that, how could Larkin be anything but great?


Since 1991 Larkin has released albums on such labels as Rounder/Philo, Windham Hill, and her current label Vanguard Records. Alongside the traditional folk music instrumentations, Larkin is happy to bring such modern sounds as loops and samples - and she manages to weave all these elements into a mosaic that is still true to its roots.  Her songs have been covered by many artists including Holly Cole and Cher. Her music has been featured in such films as Random Hearts, and Evolution. She has even been given her own day ("Patty Larkin day") in Boston. And all of that is just the tip of the iceberg.


Her most recent album is Red=Luck, and it has been garnering rave reviews from all over. Billboard Magazine said that Larkin is, "an absolutely stunning guitarist, easily on a par with Bonnie Raitt." Of Red=Luck the Boston Globe said, "The album radiates with a texturally rich conglomeration of Middle Eastern, Celtic, and pop influences." The Washington Post gave this view, "Larkin subtly and colorfully orchestrates her musings, relying on her gifts as a multi-instrumentalist to help turn Red = Luck into what it is clearly meant to be: an absorbing listening experience." Vintage Guitar said, "not just a fine songwriter or virtuoso musician, she combines her talents to create music that demands your attention with great melodies and lyrics that mean something." And Rolling Stone offered this description, "evocative vocals, warm tunes and subtle sonic shading including low-key ambience and Middle Eastern melodies." It's clear that the critics love the album.


Not content just to create her own music, though, Larkin's latest project finds her in the producer's seat. She is executive producer of  La Guitara - Gender Bending Strings. The disc is a collection of 14 guitar performances. While the sources come from all over the globe, they all have one thing (besides music) in common, and that is the fact that they are all women.  Larkin says that her motives for doing the album were that, "it is my belief that women guitarists of the past played a part in the evolution of the instrument and that their story is largely untold... This project is dedicated to these artists, past and present, waiting to be discovered, needing to be heard."


Well, your motives for seeing Larkin should be clear, a night of great music. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch went so far as to say, "Patty Larkin is, quite simply, one of the best musicians on the planet." How can you ever forgive yourself if you miss someone like that playing right here in Rockford? An Evening With Patty Larkin will take place on Saturday February 4th at 8 PM at the Mendelssohn PAC, 415 N. Church Street. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. For more information check out the Charlotte's Web website,, or Larkin's site, (where you can find some short samples of her music and a lot more)

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Patty Larkin
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