Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin - - Soundblab

Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2019-03-08
Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin

This record conjures ghosts who recite the dark side of history and dance to the music of Lucinda Williams.

Of course, those ghosts are also dancing to the grooves of Patty Griffin’s previous albums.

And this new one is a lovely and very intimate folk record.

It’s also a bit of a boomerang toss.

This music began with Moses, not the Biblical Exodus guy, but rather a metaphoric song of intense and lonely blood that opened Patty Griffin’s first record Living with Ghosts. Oh my! Her voice vibrated like a cannon discharging blues, soul, gospel, and very Made in America buckshot. And her melodies were razor sharp and tore flesh from the truth.

Yet, it was all very beautiful, and it cuddled like a porcupine right next to albums by John Prine and John Hiatt. So, yeah, Patty Griffin is an iconic American artist.

Of course, her second record, Flaming Red, rocked with an attitude that left folk listeners bewildered. And Downtown Church sang with gospel fever. Children Running Through is just a masterpiece with a full band (with Emmylou Harris on backing vocals). Every album bled yet another vein of American soul.

And this new album is that boomerang toss back to the absolute simplicity of that wondrous first album. Now, after all the years, the melodies don’t cut the veins with such sharp melodies. But they, perhaps, pulse with a gentler pathos, a pathos that cuts with a soft and sympathetic surgical knife.

But these tunes still manage to slice into the heart with wisdom and actually stitch the pain.

Her voice is still a wide-open throttle that cuts through sacred westward soil that will sing, forever, various versions of Americana that do justice to Bruce Springsteen’s anthem “Born to Run,” which is a lovely sequel to Mark Twain’s heart blood Mississippi River dream.

As said, this is a boomerang toss that circles back to the sparse guitar/vocal of her first record. But the brash guitar strumming is now gone, and the first tune, “Mama’s Worried,” is emotive voiced with a sincere Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar. “River” is another quiet song with spaces of deep patience and a melody that is, indeed, served best with the simple complement of guitar, piano, and strings. This is gospel; this is blues; this is folk; and then it’s all of the above, all at once, while being salted with, what The Grateful Dead termed American Beauty. The next song, “Where I Come From” rolls like the wind over the plains. Again, this is intimate folk music that’s a dart to the heart, with the measured cadence of railroad tracks that run into any distance and welcome any train.

“Hourglass” is bluesy Bessie Smith stuff with a bass line and horn arrangement that vibrates with a deep devotion to tradition. It may be a bit obvious (although without the usual electric guitar from previous records). But that stuff is heaven, and heaven should go on forever. So, it’s still pretty cool.

Ahh, “Had a Good Reason” is an absolutely lovely song that is, in its own quiet acoustic manner, heaven, too. The tune makes time stand still. So, yeah, it also should go on forever.

Ditto for “Bluebeard,” but the tune is dark like the sound of John Fogerty’s Bayou barking dog who will, forever, chase that hoodoo there, just like the mad pursuit on John Keats’s Grecian Urn.

This album oozes that sort of humanity.

“And humanity,” as my friend, Kilda Defnut, often says, “at its best, is a boomerang toss back into itself.”

By the way, for Band of Joy and Zep fans, Robert Plant sings back-up on a few tunes.

The rest of the album is an introspective glance. “What Now” is dramatic, and it swells with panoramic atmospheric color. And the piano and acoustic guitar paced “Luminous Places” is honest and confessional. Again, soft strings grace the melody with wisdom. “Coins” is acoustically quiet and manages to quell time. This is a deep warm blanket in the midst of snowstorm music.

But the (almost) folk standard “Boys from Tralee” plays its deep emotive hand. And the Resonator guitar sound of the up-tempo “The Wheel” propels the tune into further way back then bluesy territory. Bruce Cockburn fans take heed! This is the real deal from then, from now, and from then, once again. And it’s simply vital music. “What I Remember” is cut from that same Americana sampler cloth. This is timeless music that reaches for the universe and plays with the acoustic guitar purity of dear planet Earth.

“Just the Same” is the piano and voice honest end to any honest journey. The great Carol King comes to mind. This is a simple end to a lovely and very simple album. It conjures the August depth Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. This album breathes a breath, with a soft guitar strum and an ancient voice, a voice that drinks the final round in any bar, a voice that paints with an acoustic brush, and, finally, a voice that will forever sing, like dancing ghosts sometimes do, into the heavy core of the deep American heartland soul.

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