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Archive for Thursday, November 27, 1997

SINGER PUSHES PAST STEREOTYPES

November 27, 1997

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Strings are at the heart of a recording artist's new album.

On her latest album, "Perishable Fruit," songwriter Patty Larkin's smooth voice is joined by stringed instruments -- guitars, mandolins, bazouki, lap steels and basses -- and nothing else.

In place of drums, she invited collaborating musicians to tap, hit and beat on the stringed instruments in an experiment that garnered glorious, warm results.

As a graduate of Boston's famous Berklee College of Music, Larkin had delved into the realms of rock, jazz and Celtic music, but more recently has sculpted a place for herself among the singer-songwriters of the folk genre.

Pushing past the stereotypical folk tunes with an accompanying lilting voice, she prefers to stretch herself as an artist, working with new techniques, finding new sounds and writing about real life. Her latest album offers tunes rich in musical technique that are also lyrically intriguing.

"I thought it would be a very exciting project to take on," Larkin said. "It was this idea that the instruments could take on the whole bill of fare -- that they could provide a whole array of sounds that aren't necessarily made by just plucking or strumming the strings.

"It was really different and charged my imagination."

Although the album is full of accompanying musicians and even guest appearances from Jane Siberry and Bruce Cockburn, Larkin flies solo when touring. Because Larkin's unable to replicate the number of instruments from the album -- and doesn't intend to -- the strength of her songs becomes more evident.

Larkin finds her inspiration in "just about anything."

"My songs are about modern life, the angst of modern life and how I respond to it. Just the littlest things can spark an idea. Sometimes it's just the feeling of everyday waxy buildup," Larkin said with a laugh.

When asked about the increasing number of female singer-songwriters hitting the radio charts and the success of last summer's all-female Lilith Fair concert tour, Larkin said said:

"I think we are seeing a resurgence in lyric, pop-oriented women songwriters and I think it's great. It's still a very segregated situation for female artists though."

Noting the diversity of female artists, Larkin said one element is still missing.

"I'm just waiting for Janie Hendrix to come along and blow everyone away," she said. "It's not me, but it'll be somebody who's got the goods."

For her style, Larkin has the goods and others have been noticing. She has won 10 Boston Music Awards, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Berklee College of Music and even enjoyed Patty Larkin Appreciation Day in Boston on July 18. Cher recorded one of Larkin's songs for her latest album.

Larkin is finishing a four-month tour and recording some of the live performances for a 1998 album.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to biles@ljworld.com.

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