Soul Retrieval, Larkin Grimm's 2012 release and first on her own Bad Bitch label, finds her still embracing a striking theatricality while being her most immediately accessible album yet. Compared to her sometimes cryptic earlier albums and Parplar's whipsaw extremes, Soul Retrieval has an almost therapeutic feeling at work from the start, with "Paradise and So Many Colors" feeling a bit like a 1920s vaudeville romantic interlude; an ode to joy and self-esteem that the liner notes gently hint at. If there's also an elegant feeling of prime late-'60s/early-'70s acid folk thanks to the recorders -- and perhaps song titles like "Lying in a Pool of Milk," with a subtly off-kilter arrangement but a fairly straightforward melody -- then the identity of that player might be the reason. Tony Visconti, famed for his work with Marc Bolan and others, helped co-produce the album and plays throughout -- a lovely touch from a noted veteran. But this is very much Grimm's album rather than a stunt casting, with a core band including drummer Otto Hauser and harpist Jesse Sparhawk following her overall lead. The result of such combinations comes through in full on songs like "Without a Body or a Numb and Useless Mind," with a sprightly kick suggestive of New Orleans as much as Appalachia, whistling, and more in a beautiful whirl. Meanwhile, Grimm's vivid lyrical voice remains perfectly intact, with striking lines like "Your silver blades are slicing in the sun" on "Flash and Thunder Came to Earth," while "Dirty Heart Dirty Mind" gives Grimm a chance to channel classic country vocals through a very passionate filter, with delicate but dark plucking shading the experience. But sometimes it's just as simple as the slow sway of "The Road Is Paved with Leaves," a mid 20th-century tearjerker that David Lynch would appreciate but which doesn't so much suggest creepiness as gentle persistence, Grimm's singing here some of her best yet as she delivers thoughts like "Don't go out of your mind...There is nothing to worry about." In other contexts it could be ironic, but Grimm makes it a beautiful statement for life.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett