January 31, 2008

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Patty Larkin, Watch the Sky
Vanguard Records, Jan. 22
Senior citizen Patty Larkin once wrote a song called “Not Bad for a Broad” to poke fun at the Guitar Player nerds who fawn over her talent, but the Berklee grad’s songwriting — nay, album-writing — sense far overshadows her technical ability. What a rare thing that is, and what a velvety, dense, inescapably good LP she’s submitted in her 56th year. Roll-out track “Phone Message” is a come-hither from the looking glass, a subtle, unplugged guitar hooked up with a sitar to lay down the dharma; a whirlpool opens and you slip in, Larkin’s humble croon serving as both guide and inquisitor. Cut to “Cover Me,” where the eddy’s slowed to a still lake decorated with a single fascinating arpeggio, narrated in turn by long-held notes that feel custom-tailored, the words “cautious skin/so cool this place I’m in” somehow finding solace in the terrifying dichotomy of desire. Comes with its own self-hypnosis routine, too, in the form of “Beautiful,” the word repeated over and over while white puffy chords fold into each other. A+ — E. W. S.