- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Singer-songwriter Patty Larkin sounds utterly at peace with the notion she will never be the music industry's flavor of the month. Miss Larkin, who plays the first of two concerts tonight at the Barns of Wolf Trap, says singers such Britney Spears are working at a "Super Bowl" level.
"I'm organizing a smaller game for people I know to come and play," Miss Larkin says, calling last week from her Cape Cod home to promote her new album, "Red = Luck."
"I wouldn't want to do what she does," she says of the reigning princess of mass-market pop.
"I think for me it comes out of who I am, whether [or not] I'm shooting myself in the foot by loving that musical style," she says, a hint of laughter in a voice that trails off.
Thanks to a grass-roots effort to win over fans, the support of public radio and a succession of critically respected albums, Miss Larkin's career appears quite comfortably on track; witness her Wolf Trap twin billing.
Fans, she says, continue to rally around her intimate folk musings.
"I do feel it's a longtime commitment from the listener," she says of her base.
Her 10th album blends her delicate delivery with lyrics teeming with uncertainty in the wake of September 11.
She began recording her albums in the studio of her Cape Cod home in 1997 for that year's effort, "Perishable Fruits."
"It's small, by studio standards," she says of what started out simply as a demo studio.
"You're looking at a very beautiful scene," she says, a setting that can't help but creep into the music. "It affects the pace, in a way. You relax; you settle down a bit," she says.
She recorded roughly half the album before the terrorist attacks, and like many artists, she wasn't sure just how to return to work in the days that followed.
After a tragedy, "some people rush to their typewriters," she says. "I basically wanted to stay in that state of mourning."
Rather than retreat to the studio, she found it easier to keep playing live shows.
"I felt it was too raw, too emotional and big," she says, "and what I do was very minuscule in comparison."
She is reminded of what singer Laurie Anderson said of playing before crowds that first weekend. Fans asked Miss Anderson if she had retooled some of her lyrics to make them fit into the country's somber mood. No, the singer said, the songs simply took on new meanings given the state of the world.
"Red = Luck" doesn't directly exploit the devastation in New York City and the Pentagon. Instead, rambunctious tracks such as "Louder," with its single lyric "this old world is getting louder" repeated over and over again, hint at the event's aftermath.
Overall, she sees the album reflecting a loss of innocence, a theme also seen in tracks such as "Children."
She uses a number of instruments, including mandolins and accordions, to ornament her sound. She began her musical exploration about five years ago, buoyed by listening to Beck, a kindred spirit and musical innovator.
For "Fruit," she says, "I didn't use any traditional drums [but] made percussive sounds on string instruments." She also began dabbling with samples during those sessions.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Miss Larkin grew up in a musical household. Her piano-playing grandmothers played the blues for her, and she was encouraged at an early age to belt out any song in her heart.
Later, she studied classical jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, playing in various bands along the way.
Persistence paid off with the release of her first album, 1991's "Tango," which reflected her diverse musical tastes. Subsequent releases forged that zest for genre-hopping. Her music has been recorded by Cher, and her tunes have decorated the soundtracks of 2001's "Evolution" and 1999's "Random Hearts."
Looking back, she says music "was the only thing that held my attention," but she wasn't sure how to make it a career.
"Now that I understand the music business, I understand my confusion," she says.

WHO: Patty Larkin, with opening act Merrie Amsterburg
The Barns of Wolf Trap, Vienna
8 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13

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