- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It has been a little more than two years since Austin, Texas-based Jerry Jeff Walker last played the Birchmere in Alexandria. In that time the 64-year-old singer-songwriter, best known for writing “Mr. Bojangles,” has undergone surgery to correct a nagging back problem that made travel painful.

Right now, Mr. Walker says, he’s in the “talking” stage of a new album, which would be his 34th. His independent label, Tried & True Music, marks its 20th anniversary this year.

He’s written a couple of new songs and is considering revisiting the Caribbean theme. Mr. Walker recorded “Cowboy Boots & Bathing Suits” in 1998. He makes annual winter pilgrimages with fans to a resort in Belize, and he’s a friend of Jimmy Buffett’s.

But, he says, “first things first,” and that means hitting the concert trail with his band, the Gonzo Compadres: Bob Livingston on bass, Steve Samuel on drums and Tommy Nash on guitar.

After playing two nights in June in Texas’ Greune Hall — where it was “hot and rowdy,” according to Mr. Walker — and performing on the bill with his son, Django Walker, at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, the band strikes east for two nights at the Birchmere in Alexandria, tomorrow and Saturday (www.birchmere.com).

Mr. Walker follows those shows with dates in Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; and back in Texas, at Plainview, as the month draws to a close.

“I’m more or less trying to get myself physically in a good upswing,” he says. “I want to get where I feel I’m hitting on all of my cylinders.”

And, he says, he’s looking forward to playing the Birchmere, where “the music is first — everybody is listening.”

“We’ll have fun. We’ll play a little bit of something old, a little bit of something new — all mixed in,” he says.

• • •

Guitarist Patty Larkin is settling back into her own routine after producing, recording and touring with LaGuitara, a project that features an international collection of female guitar players and celebrates some overlooked guitar-slinging women from the past. The project so far has produced a CD and tours involving some of the participants.

Miss Larkin, 55, plans to revisit her own repertoire, including her most recent solo disc, 2003’s “Red = Luck,” when she appears Sunday at the intimate dining room of Baldwin’s Station and Pub in Sykesville, Md. (www.uptownconcerts.com)

She says she is writing and reworking 10 to 12 songs for a solo project she hopes to record in 2007 — “we’ll see which ones make the cut and we’ll begin from there.”

LaGuitara has developed a life of its own. With Muriel Anderson and Mimi Fox, Miss Larkin performed LaGuitara songs at California’s vaunted Strawberry Festival in May. The same trio is booked for the Newport Folk Festival Aug. 6 in Rhode Island.

The project is calling Miss Larkin back to the road next March with fellow LaGuitara performers Badi Assad and Ellen McIlwaine.

Miss Assad is “an inventive new Brazilian” guitarist, and Miss McIlwaine is a “60-something, screaming slide guitar player,” Miss Larkin says. The performances should be “perky,” she says. “Let’s put it that way.”

“It would be nice if it kept going,” Miss Larkin says of LaGuitara’s future. “We realize how much has to go into it if we are going to have even three artists at a festival. It reaches out in so many different ways I can’t do myself and is spreading the guitar gospel, so it’s not all just about me.”

Miss Larkin and her guitar wizardry starting commanding attention in 1985, with her first of 10 solo recordings, “Step into the Light.” Since then, she has won 11 Boston Music Awards and a distinguished alumna award from the Berklee College of Music, which also presented her with an honorary doctorate.

Born in Iowa and reared in Milwaukee, Miss Larkin has for the past 17 years made her home on Cape Cod. She says she is looking forward to performing solo again on electric and acoustic guitars, and is trying some looping effects in concert — though she’s careful not to overdo it.

“It can be a gimmick, but I use it on just one song,” she says. “I want to see what songs pop out before I start affecting them.”

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