February 07, 2015

David Wilcox and Patty Larkin at The Iron Horse

Old friends. That's what David Wilcox and Patty Larkin are, in my folk / acoustic / singer-songwriter fandom. Way back in the early 90's, I found them both; pretty sure there was a cassette tape dub of Wilcox's How Did You Find Me Here in my "pre-CD" collection, courtesy of a former partner. Both Patty and David were featured on the root document in my folk / acoustic journey,"On a Winter's Night" which also introduced me to John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Bill Morrissey, and others. And I've seen them both multiple times, at Falcon Ridge, other folk fests, and in solo concerts and coffeehouses.

Wilcox was more of an earlier fave - I covered "Eye of the Hurricane" years ago on the open mic circuit; his creative tunings and capo use were my first introduction to those techniques. I've got his earlier works on CD, and downloaded a handful of his mid-career albums via eMusic. Patty's strong songwriting and musicianship has kept me engaged throughout the ensuing years; I have early and late stuff downloaded, the middle career is all CD. Come to think of it, I think I covered her version of "The Letter" back in my open mic days as well.

I was not planning to go (I've got tix for the Nields CD release party at the Iron Horse this evening, two trips north is a stretch for me), but my friend Amy, who does Patty's website, got a couple of comp tickets, so along I went. So happy I got the opportunity.

Patty, and then David, each played a short solo set, that included many faves (David quipped about getting "Eye of the Hurricane" out of the way). Although I've seen Patty many times over the years, I've never been close enough to really watch her hands, and I was fascinated by her right hand technique and the way she just pulls so much sound - bass, mids, highs - distinctly and simultaneously out of a single instrument.

I've mostly loved her song-writing over the years, although the "Patty Larkin is an amazing guitarist" meme has been out there all along. I think I have not fully appreciated how amazing until tonight. Mostly playing acoustic, she did pick up a Strat for one piece that she augmented with a bow - although truthfully she needs neither an electric guitar nor other props to impress and engage.

David is an amazing guitarist in his own right (as Patty quipped "I'm playing this brand guitar because it's the one David was playing back in the day") but while Patty is a force of nature, who plays with such ferocity and authority that she barely needs a sound system, David is a craftsman who draws the listener in with the subtlest of notes and lyrics. We're leaning in to get it all, and he's quietly offering what he has.

David in particular, seemed impish and playful all evening. After their solo sets, they took the stage together in a sort of "round robin / song swap" format that each has participated in at Falcon Ridge. Patty was a bit more formal, playing favorite songs that she felt drawn to (including one of my faves, Me and That Train). But David was kind of a trip - taking cues from Patty's songs or stories to advise his own song choices, folding pieces of Patty's dialogue into a song coda. He was listening intently as Patty played, and often he heard something that made him whisper "yes!" or shake his head at the language.

At one point, he asked the audience to dig up some some lyrics for a song that Patty's last song brought to mind (but that he could not fully remember) - 2008's Captain Wanker. After running through the verse once or twice (and letting us watch as he searched for one tricky chord), he started the song, calling out for the first line of each subsequent verse, and obviously amused at each verse as if he were hearing it for the first time. It was performance art, hilarious, endearing, hard to resist.

They each played solo (although each injected a little bit of harmony, some lead, a little slide guitar on Patty's part). Although they ostensibly dueted on "The Cranes, which David contributed to for Patty's "25" project, it was mostly Patty with some quiet harmonies by David.

For an encore, they came back with an unexpected blast from the near past ' Jean Rohe's Arise! Arise! - which David touted from the stage, and led as a sing-along. (David played, Patty held the lyrics, Jude yelped and tweeted to Ms. Rohe)

Being a new convert to the cult of Jean Rohe myself (having just seen her a few weeks back), I was thrilled to have her song brought forth to what was perhaps a more conservative, old-school folk crowd.

Delightful evening of music with some old friends. And headed back this evening for what I imagine will be a bit more of a raucous love fest with The Nields.

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