Once, musicians rerecorded their classic material as a way of sticking it to the record-label man who owned the tracks but never got around to paying anyone but himself and the lawyers. Now such "retrospectives," usually crowded with guest pals and always inferior to the original documents, have the whiff of nostalgia and the wake of a jumped shark. Party Larkin's 2010 release, 25, is neither. Larkin has earned the long gaze backward after 25 years of graceful and dedicated songcraft but only minor commercial success. Remarkably, the festival of name-dropping (everyone from Suzanne Vega to Bruce Cockburn sits in) is the best record she's ever made, balancing her lyrical clairvoyance with dazzling guitar technique across songs that few other New England folkies can match.
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