EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 26, 2013

Patty Larkin: 'Still Green'

Me & Thee concert celebrates release of new CD

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Patty Larkin’s latest album is her 13th, but there’s nothing unlucky about it.

For fans, it means there are new songs to be heard, some of which Larkin will play tomorrow night at Me and Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead.

“Gone are the days when I just play all the new stuff,” she said. “I have 30 years of material. I’ll mix it up a bit.”

For Larkin, writing this music was enjoyable, a creative process she celebrates in the album’s title, “Still Green.”

“What I get from it is this sense of freshness, joy and discovery,” she said.

That pleasure was enhanced by the week Larkin spent a couple of years ago in a dune shack on Cape Cod National Seashore, where several songs on the album were written.

“It was inspiring to me to be in the middle of wilderness, in a place where there’s very little distraction and so much beauty,” she said. “To spend the entire day writing or working on writing is a luxury.”

It also gave her time to work on songs from start to finish, pulling together lyrics and musical ideas that she had recorded at different times on digital devices.

“I’m finding I have to be very disciplined about getting back to the music, rather than recording these little snippets,” she said. “I’m teaching now, and it’s something I’ve talked to my students about, the continuity of writing, going back to it the next day.”

The pace of contemporary life, which interrupts her writing, gets comical treatment in the song “Mando Drum.” The singer gulps caffeine in “a double shot / Double double mocha mocha grande,” then starts “shindigging with my GPS on.”

“I’m going to follow you,” she vows. “You tell me you’re futuristic / world’s coming apart.”

While “Still Green” celebrates creative renewal, many of its songs are about coping with loss.

“To me, it describes the whole circle,” she said. “That is, going through a grief, and going to nature, and going to family, and coming back with that sense of life — that sense of green.”

Larkin’s mother died four years ago, and her father died a year ago last week. In addition, her sister recently suffered a stroke during exploratory surgery.

“That’s changed her life,” Larkin said.

The first song on the album, “Best of Intentions,” describes a search for consolation in the face of these challenges.

“The man in the hallway is cleaning up grief,” Larkin sings. “The faithful will always fall back on belief / I wish there was something I could believe to belong.”

She doesn’t steer listeners to doctrines they can lean on but does share a poem she has set to music, “Green Behind the Ears” by Kay Ryan.

Poetic influences are not uncommon in her songs; “Pablo Neruda,” for example, professes love in a romantic spirit inspired by the Chilean poet.

“I am very much influenced by what I read,” she said, “but in particular, the poetry I read and come across, because it is so concise and so dense.”

The Ryan poem is whimsical and humorous in a way that she liked and adds to the meaning of “green” in Larkin’s title.

“I was still slightly / fuzzy in shady spots / and the tenderest lime,” Ryan begins, describing the green of fresh growth.

But the new shoot that opens the poem quickly encounters some growing pains.

“The thing that struck me about that poem is the line, ‘It is / hard to be green and / take your turn as flesh,’” Larkin said. “That act of being human is difficult. It’s a difficult thing to work through loss. Where do you go with your grief?”

IF YOU GO What: Patty Larkin in concert, with opener Scott Alarik When: Friday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m. Where: Me & Thee Coffeehouse, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead Tickets: $22 in advance, $25 at the door. Information: 781-631-8987 or www.meandthee.org