Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Album Review: Patty Griffin - Patty Griffin

The music on Patty Griffin’s eponymous new album is at the image of its beautiful pastoral psychedelic cover: symbolic, old-fashioned and rustic. Also like the cover, it puts the artist in full display not in an ostentatious manner but in earnest, honest way.

The production is similarly elegant: sparse and simple, the instrumentation only highlights the record’s main features: the incredibly emotive voice of Patty Griffin and her beautiful songs, most of which were written when she was battling battling breast cancer and that prism adds poignancy to the listening experience. But the mood isn’t somber or heavy, it isn’t the harrowing listen it could have been. In fact, in spite of the minor keys and melancholy lyrics, “Patty Griffin” is a celebration of sorts.

Among the highlights of the album is opener Mama’s Worried, a song which features Patty Griffin’s voice alone over jazzy acoustic guitar chords that is so intimately recorded that you can hear the artist’s fingers on the fretboard. 

Also of note is the faster paced melancholy of Where I Come From, which sounds like it channels Townes Van Zandt without the pathos. Or Hourglass, another jazzy tune with a great trombone. And The Wheel, a drone-y one chord blues number which builds up in intensity before softening down. The piano in Luminous Places or Just The Same. The quasi-gothic chord progression of Coins…

There isn’t a bad song or a dull moment in the nearly one hour of material included in this release. It’s consistent enough to form a cohesive statement but also varied enough to sustain attention and curiosity throughout. It’s a wonderful treasure chest for the stunning voice and timeless songwriting of an artist that has found the perfect balance between tradition, artistry, self-expression and modesty.

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