(born on 1964)
A singer and songwriter whose literate, impressionistic storytelling and richly evocative melodies have made her one of the most respected artists in the contemporary folk community, Patty Griffin is also a superb vocalist who sings of the human heart and soul with a passion that's palpable but never histrionic. Most comfortable working outside the major-label system, Griffin went from performing in Boston coffee houses to national acclaim with 1996's Living with Ghosts, a debut album drawn from her solo acoustic demo recordings. While she would explore more full-bodied arrangements on 1998's Flaming Red and 2002's 1000 Kisses, her work always expresses a powerful emotional intimacy, and she's touched on her spiritual concerns with the albums Impossible Dream (2004), Downtown Church (2010), and Servant of Love (2015). Patty Griffin was born in Old Town, Maine on March 16, 1964. The youngest of seven children, Griffin was 16 years old when she bought her first guitar for $50. While she learned to play, she showed no interest in making music a career in her teens and twenties; however, when her marriage broke up in 1992, Griffin, now living in Boston, developed a keener interest in writing songs, and was soon performing regularly at local coffee houses. A&R people from A&M Records were impressed with Griffin's songs and soulful performing style, and she was signed to a record deal; early attempts to capture her sound in the studio didn't quite click, so her 1996 debut album, Living with Ghosts, was drawn from Griffin's original acoustic demo recordings. The 1998 follow-up, Flaming Red, teamed Griffin with a full band and a full-bodied production in sharp contrast to the spare sound of the debut. Griffin recorded an album in 2000 with producer Daniel Lanois called Silver Bell, but before it could be released, A&M was taken over by Universal in a corporate merger, and the album was put on the shelf while Griffin was left in limbo. Eventually, Griffin was released from her A&M contract. She signed with ATO Records, the artist-friendly label founded by Dave Matthews, and ATO released 1000 Kisses in 2002. In 2003, Griffin released a live album, A Kiss in Time, and by this point she was gaining greater recognition as a performer, with her songs being recorded by Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, and Emmylou Harris, while Shawn Colvin, Miranda Lambert, Solomon Burke, and the Wreckers would follow suit over the next several years. After releasing 2004's Impossible Dream, Griffin took three years off from the studio before returning with 2007's Children Running Through, which was named the year's best album by the Americana Music Association. In 2010 Griffin and her friend and collaborator Buddy Miller set up shop in Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church to record Downtown Church, a set of spiritually themed numbers, which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album. That same year, Griffin took part in the recording sessions for Robert Plant's album Band of Joy, and she joined Plant's road band for the subsequent concert tour; Griffin also became the belated subject of music business gossip when she and Plant entered into a love affair that found the former Led Zeppelin singer briefly relocating to Austin, Texas, where she'd been living since the late '90s. By 2013, Griffin and Plant had gracefully parted ways, and she released the primarily acoustic set American Kid, a joint release between Columbia and New West Records. Also in 2013, Griffin's unreleased album Silver Bell finally received an official release (though the album had been circulating among fans for years), and her song "We Are Water" was performed by Hayden Panettiere on the hit TV series Nashville. In 2015 Griffin launched her own label, PGM, distributed by Thirty Tigers, and inaugurated the imprint with a new album, Servant of Love. Griffin's second PGM release, simply titled Patty Griffin, was issued in 2019. A spare, mostly acoustic effort, the album featured guest vocals from Robert Plant on two songs.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Credential Recordings
In many respects, art is about the process that goes into the creation of the work as much as the work itself; the path that leads to a final creative vision can often mean as much to the art as the physical technique or the initial inspiration. It's a process not unlike faith, in which the road to spiritual understanding plays a powerful role in informing one's beliefs, and both art and faith play a crucial role in Patty Griffin's seventh album, Downtown Church. While Griffin has described herself as a "lapsed Catholic," she's also spoken of herself as a seeker who believes in the spiritual dimensions of music, and she's a passionate devotee of classic gospel music, with the influences showing clearly on her 2007 album, Children Running Through. On Downtown Church, Griffin has given her gospel influences free reign; while it features two fine new songs from her, most of the album is devoted to vintage gospel of all stripes, from Hank Williams' "House of Gold" and Dorothy Love Coates' "The Strange Man" to traditional numbers such as "Wade in the Water," "If I Had My Way," and "Never Grow Old." Downtown Church was recorded in Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church, and while it's hard to say how much that informed the mood of the sessions, Griffin's vocals here possess a fierce passion bordered by a touching emotional fragility, as if she's fully aware of the gravity of the themes at hand, and means to give them the consideration they deserve. Griffin is also accompanied by a number of gifted friends and colleagues; Buddy Miller produced the album, and his spectral guitar lines weave their way through many of the songs, while the guest vocalists include Emmylou Harris, Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, and gospel stars Ann McCrary and Regina McCrary, all of whom add to the richness of this music while never leaving any question that this is truly Griffin's album. Griffin has certainly learned a lot from vital gospel artists of the past, but rather than emulate their style, she's absorbed them and used their influences to create something of her own, and along the way, one can hear her digging deep into the meanings of these songs as well as appreciating the beauty on the surface. Griffin sounds bold on "I Smell a Rat," fervent on "The Strange Man," and almost in awe of the simple faith and complex mysteries of "All Creatures of Our God and King," and just as she's not afraid to step into the musical unknown, she's sincere and assured as she considers the depth of faith expressed in these songs. It's no surprise that Downtown Church is a beautiful album, as Patty Griffin has been making beautiful albums since 1996, but here she's reaching for something deeper than she has on much her previous work, and the search that informed these 14 songs is compelling and joyous to hear, regardless of your religious convictions. © Mark Deming /TiVo