So you like Mumford-type bands, indie folk in general, and the roots of folk, and still want more. Patty Larkin is the one for you, as a gateway to another type of modern folk, and a great album.
Larkin has been around since the 1980s, when she released her first album Step Into The Light, I’m Fine, for Philo/Rounder Records. At the time, the most popular folk singers were people like Suzanne Vega and The Roches, and Larkin was included in that group. She became even more popular in the 90s, with albums like Tango, and airplay on NPR, and no-commercial AAA stations, because before these formats got into indie rock, this is the type of music they played. But for all the popularity of 90s folk, the scene was unjustly overshadowed by other types of alternative music. This music was as much an alternative as grunge, as 90s folk toot the spirit of grunge and put it into a folk context.
The reason this album is so great is that it’s gentle music, but so is BonIver. The gentleness of the music masks the fact that it’s very melancholy, but not depressing. It’s more unsettled, and the lyrics reflect that feeling. The characters in these songs are facing big decisions. They’re not quite sure of what to do, and really need to think about everything without getting upset. Mumford explores this, too, as does Of Monsters and Men, but Larkin’s music is quieter, more thoughtful. Which is to say that just because it’s quieter, doesn’t mean it’s mellow. It has it’s own way of rocking.
The current wave of folk should include Larkin in it, and the others who came of age musically in the 90s. Really, the true roots of today’s folk are in these 90s artists. The list is long, but a few names to go by: Dar Williams, Jonatha Brooke, The Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter, Greg Brown, and even those who are not quite folk, but have one foot in it, like Mary Lou Lord. You’ll find a world of good music here, and also interesting lyrics. And Larkin is one of the best at both, so do yourself a favor, and get into Larkin. You absolutely won’t regret it.