A double album featuring collaborations with Bruce Cockburn, Janis Ian, Rosanne Cash, David Wilcox, Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, Jonatha Brooke, Shawn Colvin and Chris Smither is a tough act to follow. But if anyone is up for the task, it would be Patty Larkin.
After nearly 30 years of performing, Larkin is back in the studio working on her follow-up to "25," the career retrospective that she called "a big, fuzzy thank you to those who have supported me through the years," which includes fresh versions of her songs recorded with the friends and colleagues from the acoustic world -- cultivated over a quarter of a century of making music.
The Cape Cod-based, singer/songwriter/guitarist has lost none of her zest for making music despite the long hard years on the road, toiling in a business that has gotten more confounding and complicated than ever.
"The music industry has morphed, changed, disappeared, re-emerged, and still we keep singing," she explained. "I am grateful for the support I have had from audiences and record companies throughout my career, and I take nothing for granted. What still holds true is that I love the music. I love to sing. I know that I get something physically, tangibly from the act of making music. That I have been allowed to make my own way in this art form is an astonishing gift."
Larkin will be sharing that gift when she returns this Saturday night to Southern Vermont for a show at Next Stage Arts in Putney. At that gig she is sure to feature a sampling of new tunes that she is currently recording for release this summer.
In an e-mail exchange, Larkin talked about her new project. "Yes, I am in the studio as we speak, so to speak. The album, is called ‘Down Through The Wood.’ The title is from a song of the same name that was inspired by a quote from John Muir in which he says: ‘Throw some tea and bread in an old sack and jump over the back fence.’
"There is a suite of three songs that I wrote at the dune shacks of the National Seashore here on Cape Cod. I am grouping them into ‘The Peaked Hill Suite.’ There are two more song cycles on the project as well. I have been recording in my own Road Narrows Studio and have been incorporating my sonic ideas, including loops and sampled sounds, to acoustic and electric guitars, baritone guitar and mandolin, kalimba. I see this as an organic work, reflecting the time and place in which the songs were written."
An invigorated Larkin is already plotting beyond her new recording. "Still to come? I will be making an instrumental record next, and that has been on my list for 20 years or so. More than that, I want to go deeper into everything! The guitar, the writing, the performing. It seems that the search never ends, and that is good. I am teaching more, and will be an Artist-in-Residence at Berklee College of Music this semester, so that is another unfolding saga. To continue to enjoy my family, to be amazed by the outdoor world, and to make music that reflects all of it, that is what I still hope to accomplish."
Ultimately, doing shows in front of a live audience is an ongoing source of energy and inspiration for Larkin.
"If I sense that the audience is actively involved in what I am doing ... there’s a level of excitement there, a joy about being there, a community feeling -- all of that can lift me to a place where the music transcends any fatigue, melodrama, distractions, and I am able to connect with the audience, and we go somewhere together. That moment, that time is a sacred space, and I love it."
Dave Madeloni writes a weekly music column for Ovation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.