Album: Patty Larkin

Red = Luck, Vanguard

In Chinese culture, Patty Larkin explains in her sleeve note, luck is denoted by the same red that in ours "signals danger, stops us in our tracks and colours the lips of the temptress". An appropriate metaphor, then, for an album whose songs struggle to make sense of the conflicting attitudes tugging at each issue, whether it's the narrator of "Italian Shoes" trying to be more like someone who already likes them as they are, or the protagonist of "All That Innocence", torn between hope and trepidation. That uncertain future colours many of the songs on Red = Luck, particularly "Normal", which deals with how 11 September threw a new perspective on matters such as morality and sanity: "I guess I'm normal after all/ I don't feel so crazy/ Psychoanalysis/ After all of this/ Fails to amaze me." Set to mournful cello and an intriguing guitar discord, it's the most uncomfortable piece on an album that favours elegantly layered guitar arrangements. With her own parts augmented by an electric band, tracks such as "Children" and "Different World" develop a brooding folk-rock momentum reminiscent of Richard and Linda Thompson. The most moving arrangement, however, is one of the simplest, with the languid interplay between Larkin's acoustic, Jeff Lang's slide and Mike Rivard's double bass forming an elastic web to support her vocal on "The Cranes", which uses the migration of birds as a metaphor for human separation.

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