Following Saturday night’s Fabulous Folk concert at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, an audience member remarked on Twitter that the concert was so outstanding it should have been filmed for posterity. How true.
Landmark’s Executive Director Sharon Maier-Kennelly deserves heaps of praise for this inspired pairing, which WFUV’s John Platt described as “a conference of folk goddesses” in his introduction. Susan Werner and Patty Larkin have much in common. Both are originally from the Midwest, both have lovely voices and are excellent guitarists (Werner is also an extremely competent pianist), both have a quick and sharp wit, both have extensive bodies of work, and both are superbly gifted songwriters.
The show was broken into two parts. The first half consisted of a short set by each performer. Werner went first, treating the audience to half a dozen songs ranging from the poignant “I’ll Never be New,” which she described as sounding as though it were written by “Spike” Gershwin or “Colette” Porter, to her ode to Chicago, “Chicago Anyday,” to songs from the CD she is currently recording titled “Hayseed.” Werner is a ball of energy and exuberance – simply a pleasure to behold. She finished her set with “Time Between Trains” and left the audience wanting more.
Larkin was equally witty, making the audience laugh one minute with an offhand remark and then stunning attendees with her guitar wizardry. Larkin is truly a guitar master – easily one of the best female guitarists out there. Her technical prowess is astounding. She can fingerpick, create percussive sounds from her guitar and play slide guitar effortlessly. She opened her set with “Lately,” a song from her 25th anniversary CD (she’s now in the business 27 years), and then treated the audience to the energetic “Johnny Was a Pyro.” Larkin switched to electric guitar later in her set, calling her aqua Fender Stratocaster a “folk Fender,” and performed an amazing rendition of her song “Dear Heart” using a violin bow on the guitar and a looping pedal for effects.
After a short intermission, both women returned to the stage, this time together, for a song swap. Werner and Larkin were clearly having a ball – taking turns picking a song while the other sang a little harmony, played a little slide accompaniment (Larkin), or added in some piano (Werner). The joy on their faces as they watched each other play was priceless – clearly they loved it as much as the audience did! Highlights included Werner’s fan favorite, “May I Suggest,” Larkin’s song “Don’t,” about “growing up Irish Catholic in the Midwest,” Werner’s gorgeous “The Last Words of Bonnie Parker,” and Larkin’s “Traveling Alone.” Their songs covered trains and travel, love and loss, farms and farmers, religion and herbicides … nothing was taboo. Their banter was hysterical – it was simply a magical pairing of performers. “This is a five star gig!” said Werner as the two women came out for an encore. And indeed it was.
Next concert at Landmark will be Natalie MacMaster on March 16th. For more information, visit www.landmarkonmainstreet.org