Jan.. 6, 8 p.m. The Kate, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook (860) 510-0473, katherinehepburntheatre.org.
Folk singer-songwriter Patty Larkin has seen a complete overhaul in the way music is recorded, distributed and sold over the course of her 25-year career, but she's taking it all in stride. To celebrate the official quarter-of-a-century mark in 2010, she harnessed modern technology to produce a record that would've been nearly impossible to make back in the '80s: She re-cut 25 songs from throughout her career, each with a different guest artist (including the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Greg Brown, Lucy Kaplansky and Mary Chapin Carpenter) who then recorded tracks at their respective homes or local studios and digitally sent them to be added to the master tracks. The finished album is aptly called 25.
"We just kind of laugh about how we used to edit songs," says Larkin, on the phone from her Cape Cod home. "You'd have to take a half-day while the assistant engineer made the actual physical cut in a two-inch tape, and if they messed up, you're done."
Each artist on the record was given the open-ended freedom to provide whatever accompaniment they liked, and then Larkin would take what she was sent and try to make it work as a whole, given the unique flavors each brought to the mix.
"It takes a certain level of maturity, in a way, to let go," she says. "At first, I mainly concentrated on writing songs and singing my stuff, and now I'm more open now to experimenting with other people and telling people what I'm hearing and what I like or don't like. You have to find the words, but once you find those words and you can communicate musically, it makes it a lot easier to play with people."
In the past year, Larkin has been able to tour with many of the artists featured on 25, some of whom she hadn't seen in person in years. As a result, the project helped to make tangible the sense of community within the folk scene, and also allowed the songwriters to compare notes on how they're handling all the changes within the industry and surviving intact.
"It's really interesting to see what people are doing," she says. "Things have changed so quickly in the last ten years. I'm getting ready to do another record and we're looking into the pros and cons of even getting a record company. I think it's good to have the disc, but it's certainly not what people are listening to these days, by and large."
In addition to her show at The Kate Friday, January 6th, Larkin is also offering her musically-inclined fans a unique opportunity to see what makes her tick and maybe learn a thing or two. She's hosting a three-day Guitar Driven Songwriting workshop in Ashland, Massachusetts January 13-16th where participants will stay at a local inn and eat meals together, while experimenting with alternate guitar tunings (which Larkin is known for utilizing often), discovering melodies and learning performance techniques, among other things.
In the meantime, she's working on updating her home studio. Since 1997, all her projects have used it as a home base, allowing for as much time as necessary to develop songs without having the cost of a pro studio hovering overhead and causing hasty decision-making or rushing the artistic process.
"It's a very creative time," she says. "It's a challenge because it's so different [than it was before], but I think it's very exciting to think that technology doubles every 18 months, and to think about the amount of power and information that's coursing through it. Hang onto your hats, it's going to be fun."