Now let's get some education about music. We're going to learn more about the folk artist Patty Larkin, who's been called a contemplative songwriter and a whoop-ass guitarist. Larkin is also known as a musician's musician, and she got 25 of those musicians to play on her new CD, which is aptly called "25." It's also a reference to the number of years since Patty Larkin's very first recording. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Patty Larkin and her guests collaborated a little differently for this album. Instead of working their duets out together in a studio, Larkin recorded her voice and guitar tracks for each song on her own and sent them to the different musicians - and she gave them total freedom.

Ms. PATTY LARKIN (Musician): They were able to do whatever they wanted.

BLAIR: For the song "Beautiful," Patty Larkin sent files to singer-songwriter and guitarist Erin McKeown.

Ms. ERIN MCKEOWN (Singer-Songwriter): I opened them up and there was a standard sheet of paper that she sent to everybody describing the project. And at the bottom, it said, here's "Beautiful" for your voice. And that was it. And it was up to me to interpret that cryptic remark. So I just kind of went crazy on it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Beautiful")

Ms. MCKEOWN and Ms. LARKIN: (Singing) We're walking in the park. It was not the zoo, I know.

Ms. LARKIN: Erin McKeown on "Beautiful," she just sings all the way through with me and she does her own thing.

Ms. MCKEOWN: I thought, oh the chorus needs something, so I'll just an organ, no big deal. She can take it away if she doesnt like it.

Ms. LARKIN: And then she highlights what I'm doing and she plays Hammond B3 and piano. I just - I had no idea she played keyboards.

(Soundbite of song, "Beautiful")

Ms. MCKEOWN and Ms. LARKIN: (Singing) You look beautiful. You look beautiful. You look beautiful. You look beautiful. You look beautiful.

BLAIR: Patty Larkin says there were other surprises - Martin Sexton whistled, Jonathan Brooke played toy piano.

Larkin got the idea to invite guest artists last year, at a time when she really needed her community. Her mother passed away last fall.

Ms. LARKIN: She was sick for about three months but she passed away in September. And I remember playing some of these songs for her as she lay dying and saying, you know, mom, I'm going to get some friends to play with me on these songs. And oh, remember this one and I was kind of pulling out songs from my first albums and newer ones as well.

BLAIR: Larkin says her mom didn't want her to be alone.

BLAIR: She was my biggest fan. And I wanted to make her happy. Like, I'm going be okay. Like, I'm going call somebody. I'm not sure who I'm going to call but I'm going to call some people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LARKIN: I know a couple people.

BLAIR: Another one of those people was David Wilcox, a singer-songwriter based in Asheville, North Carolina. Patty Larkin gave him a choice - which song of hers he could play on.

Mr. DAVID WILCOX (Singer-songwriter): I think Patty sent maybe three that she thought would really work well with my voice.

BLAIR: Wilcox settled on the song "Cranes."

(Soundbite of song, "Cranes")

Ms. LARKIN: (Singing) On their wings they are turning. On their wings they fly. Shadows fade, the sun is burning high.

Mr. WILCOX: I was asking, so, do you want to, like, trade verses? Do you want it to just be harmony? She said, whatever you want. And it was so fun to have that kind of openness because it makes you come to the song for your answers.

(Soundbite of song, "Cranes")

Ms. LARKIN and Mr. WILCOX: (Singing) And only love can heal the yearning. Only loves knows why. Only love the color of your eyes.

BLAIR: The folk music world is pretty big and very connected. Patty Larkin has worked, in person, with all 25 of the artists on her new CD. They've bumped into each other at clubs around the country or played on each other's albums.

Ms. LARKIN: Somewhere I found the strength, probably from my mom, you know? I found the strength to be able to ask people to join me.

BLAIR: Patty Larkin says her only regret is that it wasn't her 50th anniversary, since there were so many more of her friends she wanted to include.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And you can hear some of the songs from Patty Larkin's album with Martin Sexton, Erin McKeown and David Wilcox, at

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Youre listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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