Patty Larkin - Still Green

Patty Larkin's dad was Christian Buddhist…I say "was" because he transitioned to the afterlife not long ago. As did her mother. Then her sister suffered a stroke after surgery. That's right: after surgery. Life can get rough at times. I, for instance, saw my mother go insane from Alzheimer's then die in a care facility while the government thieved most of her assets, she competely unknowing. My brother suffered third-stage renal failure, almost died, underwent dialysis, then a kidney transplant that went horrifically south subsequent to a period of biochemical insanity due to various immunosuppressant pharmaceuticals. Yeah, life can get rough, and many of us have to step back and wonder "What the unholy FUCK is going on here???" That's what Larkin did, and thus we have Still Green, which kicks off in the very first song pretty much reflecting the conclusions she found she never came to:

The man in the hallway is cleaning up grief
While travelers chase after time like a thief
With oversized bags, they wait for relief in the dawn
The Best of Intentions all get up and leave before long

That, y'all, is not a stanza, it's a koan. You aren't meant to solve it but you have to. There's no answer but you must find one. That's what life is, and thus many of us, when the time comes, will discover ourselves asking a second question as our days flash before us in passing over: "What the hell was THAT all about???" To get a sense of it, Larkin retreated to a shack in the dunes of Cape Cod. She began asking herself questions and, as she notes, things got real interesting real fast. I know that feeling as well. For the last 15 years of my aerospace career, I spent a solid month per annum hiking mostly solo in the red rock country of the Colorado Plateau and in New Mexico, leaving human beings behind as much as possible. I didn't have to ask questions, the answers just came anyway. Perhaps you, dear reader, have done the same.

Neither of us, though, have put such experiences into words and music like Patty Larkin because, well, we can't. The key isn't that we can't make music particularly or that we can't pen poetry necessarily but that Larkin embodies a raft of unsual traits, here coming off like Van Morrison, there like Tori Amos or Janis Ian, in other places lie a Village Vanguard refugee slipping in and out of the shadows as though a wraith reminding all and sundry of what's been left behind. The fiery haired multi-threat is noted for her acumen with guitar as much as anything else, but the emphasis in Green is not so much on virtuosity as perspicacity. Sure, there's great soloing and such, but catch her strum patterns in "It Could be Worse", the kind of great solid choices Tim Renwick or Mick Ralphs or Al Stewart or John Martyn might make, the rhythms taking you even further than the middle-eight.

The atmospheres here are laconic:

This isn't what we had in mind
When we were younger
Who knew life could be so unkind
You could go under

…but there's enough hope and a little spangle as well ("Mando Drum") so as not to put the boot in on the bummer. The clockwork lullabye of "Green Behind the Ears", infusing a poem by Kay Ryan, is a chamber pensee closeted in a lonely foyer overlooking tarn and dale, the double-bind of the wound of living bleeding over into a quiet ecstasy not untinged by perplexity and regret, Catherine Bent's cello drawing everything to a denouement in Elizabethan airs. "New Hotel" kinda brings it back but in somberer fashion, almost drear, nearly soporific, gauzy. My favorite cut, though, is the short "My Baby". Eerie but cool.

For this entire review, I've written of Patty Larkin and of myself. Now it's your turn. Where do you fit in? Is it true that "Nothing Else Really Matters"? Have you, too, gone "Down through the Wood" and perhaps plummetted among rabbit holes and life's chimerae? Think about it because this CD will insinuate itself past your defenses and obliquities, rendering that sneaky little bee-sting which sits you up, opens your eyes, and still refuses to say just what prompted the puzzlingly grinning attack.

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