CD Review: Larkin McLean

Larkin McLean

If You’re A Wild Girl Say Aye (Best Day Ever Records)

by Brian Arsenault

I always approach a CD I am going to review wanting to like it.  Anyone not essentially nasty is always hoping for that “this is great” kind of 40 minutes or so.

However, when Larkin McLean’s newest arrived in the standard plain brown shipping envelope — heck, even earlier, when I received the publicity piece on  it — I was having a real hard time maintaining a positive expectation. I mean, that title?  Along with a publicity release about “butt usage” and g-strings?  This was just going to be silly, right?

Larkin McLean

Well, yeah, If You’re A Wild Girl Say Aye is silly in places. But it’s also genuinely funny, often clever, occasionally close to touching (in just about every way imaginable), and musically varied and satisfying. The stylings range from the fast honky tonk “48 Hours in Vegas” to a unique tempo version of the jazz standard “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be).”  McLean says it’s in a “jazz waltz” style. Oh, okay.

You’ll also hear some faux reggae, some semi-bluesy and some very jazzy tracks. All provided by some highly competent studio musicians.

The problem with this CD for McLean is that the prejudice I approached it with is fairly typical of the critical and even mass feelings about humor within the rock/pop and even jazz genres.  We don’t like our artists to take it too lightly. Are they making fun of the music, the audience? What’s going on here?

You can be sexy but bawdy is suspect.  You can be overly self-conscious, serious and even threatening, but be careful with laugh time stuff.

The light hearted almost never make it to the top. When I think back over a couple decades and more, one of the few songs with a smile — at least on the surface — that made it big was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  And that was by a serious musician, singer and conductor, Bobby McFerrin.

Ms. McLean, though, has a not so secret weapon against too serious critics and listeners, as exposed in “My Bottom’s Gonna Get Me to the Top.” This slow Texas Swing tribute to shaking it makes me wish Eartha Kitt was still with us to do a cover.

Unfortunately, the song with its wry exposure of what men want also brings me to my second problem in approaching this album.  Should a guy even be doing the review?

I mean “Bachelorette,” with its jazz standard feel, is a take on the traditional theme of leave the creep – but with a twenty-first century consciousness.  It pairs, though, with the immediately following “I’m Going To Love You So You Never Forget” from a woman who wants to make it clear that attention is desired and welcome. And the next song, “Pasties and a G-string,” takes you into the back room of a strip joint.

Well, there’s a not unknown male fantasy.

So maybe a guy is perfect to review this CD.  If he can keep from leering. As a later song says, “we’re all programmed, it’s not your fault but get out now” or words to that effect.  I will get out of here soon with one more maybe nutso comment.

I think it’s possible that this CD may be a bit like a Buster Keaton silent film.  Funny, engaging, fast paced and oh so very well constructed.  And like a Keaton film, it may not be taken seriously until much later.

To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

Larkin McLean photo by Larry Barretta. 

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