I’ve been patiently waiting three long years for the return of one of my all-time favorites: Patty Griffin. Her incomparable voice coupled with impeccable lyrics has long been my go-to music whenever I need comforting. Add to that her ability to create undeniably sublime melodies and you’ve got an artist whose soulful and radiant presence can reach and influence a wide-ranging audience. Griffin is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the business. If you’re unfamiliar with her, I highly recommend checking out her previous albums as well. I can’t stress enough what a true talent she is.
Hailing from Maine, she later moved and based her career out of Texas becoming one of Austin’s biggest musical talents. Now, fourteen years after her debut album was released, she is branching out and venturing into new frontiers with her music, releasing her sixth studio album, the gospel-inspired “Downtown Church.” I’m not normally a huge fan of gospel music, but with the right singer, it can turn into something truly beautiful and touching. Patty is the perfect person to get me to change my views on this genre of music. It’s not that I’m adverse to it by any means, but I just never really thought to consider it before.
Recorded in the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, “Downtown Church” has all the makings of a traditional gospel album, but with some added twists and a little more flair. In her slow and soothing cover of Hank William’s “House of Gold,” she uses her evocative voice to convey a simple moral: what good is wealth and power if you’ve sinned your way to get there?
On the album she enlists the help of the likes of Shawn Colvin and longtime collaborator Emmylou Harris. Harris offers up the harmony on “Little Fire.” Penning this one herself, Griffin doesn’t disappoint as she belts out the lyrics: “All that I want is one who knows me… and I’d give back these things I know are meaningless for a little fire beside me when I sleep.” Another original tune is “Coming Home to Me” – a slow, simple and sweet number beautifully harmonized with Julie Miller.
“Wade in the Water” is one of the more traditional sounding gospel songs on the album, along with the lively, blues-driven “I Smell a Rat.” The nearly a capella “Never Grow Old” displays Griffin’s hauntingly unique voice echoing over the faint sound of a guitar with Buddy Miller (who produced the album) singing alongside her.
The fun and catchy “If I Had My Way” (or as Deadheads would call it, “Sampson and Delilah”) is an upbeat number mixed with a heavy, bluesy guitar. And for those who prefer those old fashioned “praise Him” songs, the album closes with “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
Griffin’s prowess and ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. And although I am a consummate and loyal fan of hers, I did have my doubts about this album before I heard it, but those doubts soon faded into pure enjoyment after hearing the first couple songs. Furthermore, I was ecstatic to hear preliminary cities were just announced for her new tour and I’m pleased to see that LA is one of the stops. We’ve missed you over here, Patty!