Patty Larkin | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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On her current CD, Red-Luck (Vanguard), pop singer-songwriter Patty Larkin sometimes allows her cleverness to get the better of her: "Inside Your Painting," for instance, is tripped up by its feverishly kaleidoscopic imagery and Summer of Love clearance-sale folkadelic arrangement. At other times she plays it too safe: "Children" is sabotaged by cliches like "I remember being happy just paying our dues" and a stiffly formulaic folk-rock arrangement. But more often Larkin puts her verbal and musical skills to better use. "All That Innocence" slyly melds teen-dream ingenuousness and cynical despair ("Hey stay a while / Let the wild winds blow.../ You're standing at the gates of hell / There's nowhere else to go"), and she mews the simple melody in the breathy yet brittle voice of a debauched flower child. "Italian Shoes" is a pop marshmallow fluffed up by Larkin's impishly incoherent wordplay, which aims to capture the inner monologue of a lover trying not to be misunderstood. (It also lifts a guitar lick from Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth.") On "The Cranes," in which the singer bids farewell to migrating birds as if losing a lover, both Larkin's subject matter and her swirling acoustic-guitar patterns recall early Joni Mitchell. And in "Birmingham," Larkin sets her tale of shattered hope and desperation in the city where a racist bombing killed four girls in 1963--an atrocity that haunts the song without her ever mentioning it. Friday, May 9, 7:30 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jana Leon.

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