Every year, many music critics and fans (the ones over thirty, at least) ask themselves, “Jeez, does the world really need another achingly earnest singer-songwriter?” One answer: If they periodically recharge or reinvent themselves in an imaginative, fascinating manner as has Patty Larkin with Watch the Sky, yes indeed.
A departure for the relatively straightforward Larkin, Sky features her playing and singing all parts — assorted guitars, bass, banjo, chimes, and loops/samples. Anchored by a muted, cyclic motif, the sinuous, subtly sultry “Traveling Alone” evokes the spooky, ethereal electronica of Laika. “Bound Brook” features disembodied but lovely delta blues and Anglo-American folk chords swathed in surreal, cinematic (think spaghetti Westerns) echo. “Beautiful” slightly recalls Tom Waits circa Mule Variations — a Captain Beefheart-style mutant/fractured blues riff and Beat-era percussion buoy the mantra-like chorus You looked beautiful. Larkin’s lusciously languorous vocal phrasing on “Walking In My Sleep” reflects the influence of jazz singers Billie Holiday and Helen Merrill. Fear not, longtime Larkin fans, for the sparse, somewhat brooding, emotive ballads “Cover Me” and “Dear Heart” recall her earlier works, her breathy voice conveying both pensive rumination and firm resolve.
Sky is inspired, 21st-century chill-out folk, creative and heartfelt — a winner. (Vanguard)