Record Review - 1 January 20 2001

Far too talented and ambitious to stay locked into the traditional Boston coffeehouse folkie/singer/songwriter scene from which she emerged, Patty Larkin has been progressively tinkering with her style during the past decade. On Regrooving the Dream, her ninth release and first for the Vanguard label — home to other non-traditional rootsy artists such as John Hiatt and Peter Case — Larkin has created an album that tosses fascinating sonic curveballs most folkies would be uncomfortable pitching.
Like Emmylou Harris, who radically expanded her pallet by infusing Daniel Lanois' electronic textures into country music, Larkin isn't confined by the traditional acoustic boundaries of folk. Her songs often take unusual twists, playing with tricky time signatures while adding unusual instrumental passages between the vocals. A Berklee-trained musician, Larkin is an inventive guitarist, songwriter and arranger. Her deep-hued voice balances Chrissy Hynde toughness with Annie Lennox soul, making even the gentlest songs sound emotionally charged. Lyrically, Larkin's poetic detail is precise and meticulous. Her description of a doomed wedding on the album's masterpiece, "Hotel Monte Vista," is visual and chilling, and the sparse instrumentation — echoed guitar throbbing under ominous tom-tom drums — adds a tension you can slice.
A folk singer/songwriter who has outgrown that often narrow category, Patty Larkin's musical experiments result in a marvelous album that refuses to conform to the standards of the genre. Through imagination, ability and determination, she stays true to her roots while successfully regrooving her dream.
Patty Larkin plays the Red Light Café, Sun., Jan. 21.