A Glorious Tapestry of Modern Folk Songs with an Occasional Jazzy Tinge.
Patty Griffin is one of those singer-songwriters who can fill auditoriums all across the world and be hailed to the rooftops by the Great and the Good of the industry (inc. Robert Plant, Bob Harris and me) but no one you know has ever heard of her, or her songs.
Here we find Ms Griffin embracing her inner-Earth Mother on the cover and to some degree on the songs therein too, as they are more even more personal and intense than on her more recent albums; and without giving anything away too soon…… the world is a much better place because these songs exist.
Guitarist to the Stars, David Pulkingham gives opening song Mama’s Worried a sensitive Jazzy feel, as Ms Griffin inhabits a broken hearted Mother who’s husband has disappeared. Try to imagine, if you will Ella Fitzgerald singing a Dolly Parton song in a Chicago nightclub at 3am. But then again; it’s better than that.
The mood remains quite melancholic on the emotionally charged River; which follows and was the first song to be released from this record to huge acclaim by fans and critics alike. Take only one casual listen and you know you are in the presence of greatness.
I’ll get it out of the way quite early; but friend and fan, the Rock Behemoth Robert Plant makes two appearances here; What Now and Coins; and with hindsight both do have the merest hint of some Led Zeppelin mythological folky intros; but if I’d not read it it was Percy in the background on harmonies I’d not have known it was him; but I might have guessed at Jimmy Page playing the acoustic guitar; but it’s not……it’s mostly Patty Griffin herself.
‘Folk Music’ is a very broad church and means different things to different people; and Patty Griffin embraces many of them across the 13 songs on this album; oddly enough the Celtic themed Boys of Tralee has a very English spine to the way it’s constructed, and I can only imagine you will be able to hear a pin drop when it’s sung live.
As happens when a songwriter gets to ‘a certain age’ they find themselves looking back on the life; as the Jazzy vibe returns on Hourglass, a romantic tale of still feeling young and capable of ‘dancing at six o’clock in the morning’; although I think Patty may be looking through rose coloured glasses; but there’s no harm in dreaming, is there?
There’s a rather beautiful song here called Where I Come From, which paints a rather sad picture of what has become of this once vibrant town; but still the narrator cleverly tells us that ‘in the September sun, as the light is dying, it’s still most beautiful as the day goes down.’
As you know music effects you in different ways at different times; and the intense darkness surrounding many of the songs on this album have caught me like silky fog this evening and are perfect for the mood I’m in……. there ain’t no laughs here!
Had a Good Reason is as stark a tale of a woman walking out on her young family as you will hear in Country Music; just don’t expect Shania or Carrie to ever cover it; they wouldn’t dare…… this is so raw you can smell the tears.
What to choose as a Favourite Song this evening? The sad eyed loneliness of What I Remember? It is a great song, and I found myself staring at the speakers as Patty crooned:
“Life is a foreign land
Impossible to understand
Once we had the precious bird in hand
And let him slip away.”
Or should I choose the clever look at the world we live in, in The Wheel? It certainly has its merits; but no; as regular readers will already know….. I’m a sucker for a love song; no matter how bitter and twisted; which album closer Just The Same most certainly is!
All we hear is Ms Griffin and a crystal clear piano pouring her heart out about loving a man who perhaps doesn’t deserve her all encompassing and pure love she has for him.
“Nothing could ever make me love you less
Though I confess I’ve tried and I’ve wished I could
We weren’t the worst and we weren’t the best
But just beneath it all
Maybe a little good.”
Bloody Hell! Patty Griffin just described my marriage in four exquisite lines!
I don’t know if anyone will agree with me; and perhaps this a misty eyed ‘age thing’ on my behalf but this album somehow feels like it bookends everything that has come and gone since Tapestry and Blue.
Perhaps I’m being a bit over romantic about a bunch of songs; but I listen to more music than the average bear Boo Boo, and PATTY GRIFFIN by Patty Griffin is a very special record indeed; and will find itself in pride of place in many record collections for years to come.
Released March 8th 2019