"Guitar has always been associated as a male right of passage," says Larkin, "but women like Rory Block, Memphis Minnie and Elizabeth Cotton broke the glass guitar ceiling years ago."
All three of those guitarists, plus a dozen more, are featured on La Guitara, making it the most representative sampling of female players. A few of the shows on the current tour will have Larkin trading licks with Erin McKeown and Muriel Anderson, both of whom have tracks on La Guitara.
Larkin's own fine fret work has drawn comparisons to legendary folk/rock guitarist Richard Thompson, but Larkin's restless experimentation places her (thankfully) outside of the standard folk troubadour genre. Although her early career found her adhering to a more traditional folk vein, Larkin has steadily moved beyond the ordinary.
Patty Larkin performs Friday, June 15, at Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse.
"When I play shows with Thompson and Leo Kottke, the audiences really get what I am doing," says Larkin, "but I am looking for a more muted, weird, organic vibe."
And that's exactly what she found on Red=Luck, her 2003 release that saw Larkin toying with modal folk and brooding ambient noise. Recorded in a shack at the edge of the National Seashore in New England, the album was recorded around 9/11, and the complexity of moods and sounds presented on Red=Luck mirror the mixed emotions of the entire country.
"I wanted to stretch myself," says Larkin. The singer-songwriter/guitarist is well into her third decade of making music, and she continues to search out new ways of expression, finding influences in music both old and new.
"I am listening to Lou Reed, Beck, Björk and Neko Case," says Larkin. Elements of all four of those make their way into Larkin's latest songs. Playing every instrument and engineering herself, Larkin found inspiration in isolation.
"It was a fun, invigorating way to record," she says. The new disc doesn't have a title, but Larkin is open to suggestions.
"My hairstylist said it should be called 'Just Me,' but that won't be it," says Larkin with a laugh.
Content with multiple talents, Larkin is happy with the accolades her guitar playing has received, joyful that her textured, economic style can compete against the standard male wankarama.
"Every guitar solo doesn't have to be faster, higher and louder," she says. "Guitar playing has always been one of those male hobbies," says Patty Larkin, "just like sports cars and rock climbing." Speaking from her home in Cape Cod, Larkin has just finished recording a new CD set to be released next year, but she still likes to talk about La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings, the compilation of songs by female guitarists that she compiled and produced in 2006.
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