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Patty Larkin – Regrooving the Dream
David Wilcox – What You Whispered
Despite their obvious sexual differences, Patty Larkin and David Wilcox have a lot in common. Both are known for their outstanding fingerstyle guitar. Although their techniques are different, they both make liberal use of non-standard tunings. Each has also written an extensive catalog of expressive and evocative songs. On these Vanguard albums, they both continue to mine their own richly creative mother lodes.
Patty Larkin’s album, Regrooving the Dream,veers in the direction of thoroughly modern singer-songwriter pop. It is not as raw or big-boned as some of her previous releases; instead it features more layered arrangements and far greater ornamentation. The opening song, “River”, begins with a languid guitar riff dripping with reverb and effects. These Daniel Lanois-like sonics provide a soft bed for Larkin’s sharp edged lyrics.
Co-produced by Patty and her longtime manager, Bette Warner, Regrooving includes stellar musicians like Jon Leventhal on electric guitar, Gideon Freudmann on cello, Glen Valez on hand-drum, and Jennifer Kimball on backing vocals. Ben Wisch performs head engineering duties while Ted Jensen is responsible for the mastering. The sound is first-class. It’s rich, detailed, enveloping ear candy.
On David Wilcox’s CD, What You Whispered, he continues his quest for the perfect confessional song. Renown for his hyper-introspectional style, David continues to gaze ever deeper into his own navel. Instead of a full band, many of the songs on What You Whispered have only David and his guitar. That is quite enough.
The opening title cut lets his instrumental abilities shine like a beacon on a moonless night. “This Tattoo”, the second song, features David leaning on a tenor banjo riff that is as funky as anything you’ll hear on this much-maligned instrument. But my favorite song on the album is undoubtedly, “Guitar Shopping,” which focuses on a subject near and dear to my guitar-collecting heart. I love these opening lines:
“There’s a guitar here in the window I’d like to play before it’s sold.
It’s such a classic, mint condition, great shape for one this old.
All these axes have their stories of the gigs that they have seen,
but when this one sold the first time, I was seventeen.”
What You Whispered was made in David’s home studio in Maryland with the help of co-producer Jim Infantino. The sound is very warm, intimate, and sonically honest. If you ever wanted to hear what an Olsen acoustic guitar sounds like, this is the disc.
Which album is better? That’s not a question I can answer with any definitive conviction. Both releases continue the directions these artists’ earlier work. David Wilcox’s release is more adventurous than his earlier titles, while Patty’s album is slicker and more commercially oriented. Fans of either artist will not be disappointed by these installments in their artistic odysseys.