Sunday, August 5, 2007

Musical Introductions

I promised a couple weeks back that I would offer up some of my favorite singer/songwriters for sampling. Most of these folks are artists who are toiling in the less hip racks of the music store or in the far reaches of iTunes.

I'm just trying to spread a little love and perhaps earn my favs another fan or two.

I'll start with an easy one.

Patty Griffin was born one day short of a month after me and spent her childhood in Old Town, Maine, the youngest of seven children. She was signed to a record contract on the basis of a demo tape that got turned into a Nile Rogers produced album. But Griffin, to her credit, felt it was overproduced and somehow managed to get A&M to release a stripped-down version of the demo tape in 1996 under the title Living With Ghosts. I first heard it when I was working for an L.A. daily newspaper, writing occasional record reviews and it was one of a very few first albums I've heard that blew me away.

While it's clearly influenced by her time spent on the Boston folk music scene in the early 1990's, there's something richer and deeper in this mainly acoustic album. "Poor Man's House" is a powerful, bigger-than-life song that resonates even though it's basically Griffin and her acoustic guitar. I saw her last month up here in NorCal with Griffin doing a solo set on her guitar and she didn't need a microphone.

I was so moved by the CD that I called A&M and had them hook me up for an interview. I'm proud to say that mine was the first story on her in a major L.A. paper.

Griffin's released five more albums since her first and with each one, she has found more confidence as a songwriter and more range as a singer. Her best songs are soaring pop-folk anthems, a little blues, a little rock, a lot of soul.

Griffin has recently made the musically-rich Austin, Texas her home base, which has brought her into a fairly exclusive circle of musician’s musicians. Her current touring band, for example, includes ex Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan. She’s earned the company, having toured with Emmylou Harris and recorded or worked with the likes of Harris, Buddy Miller and Solomon Burke.

She's currently on tour for her new release Children Running Through which is among her strongest to date. I've heard her talk about her voice in interviews and how she's learning more about it with each new album. I believe it. She was in such fine voice when I saw her, it was mesmerizing.

The best thing about seeing her in concert besides her foot-stomping, paint-peeling band, is her ever-changing collection of covers. She's known to pull out tunes by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Gillian Welch, Emmylou and even Bessie Smith. When I was there, she did a really lovely version of Billy Joe Shaver's "Live Forever," pairing the song down and delivering it with a solemn poignancy.

I've uploaded two songs from the new CD, Stay On the Ride, Up On the Mountain and the aforementioned Poor Man's House.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

If there were any justice in the world, Patty Griffin would be one of the biggest stars around. It's mystifying to me that she's never received the public acclaim that she deserves.

My first Griffin album was "1000 Kisses," which remains one of the handful (well, maybe a few dozen) of perfect albums ever released.

S.O.L. said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jeff. I just downloaded Patty's new live album from emusic.com. I recommend it, although I wish it had more of her tunes that rock. I think that part of her repertoire gets overlooked.