I have been listening to Patty Griffin since her late bloomer debut Living With Ghosts in 1996. Griffin’s songs are so poetic, so well made and then that voice is such a powerhouse of emotion. On American Kid she has returned to Craig Ross, the producer of Impossible Dream which was released almost a decade ago. However, even the laziest listen to American Kid will reveal that Buddy Miller the producer of her last two projects, a Gospel album Downtown Church recorded in Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian and her collaboration with Robert Plant on Band Of Joy, has really influenced this one. It has that organic stripped back rootsy sound that Miller has made his trademark. Plant also features on three of the songs here. He and Ms Griffin are a romantic item and though they were looking very beautiful and very cool on Later With... Jools last week, close ups revealed the aging lines on their faces! That maturity and experience of life and art is also in great evidence here.
The record is based around the life of Griffin’s father who died in 2009. His daughter’s genius is so pure at present that the collection of songs does work as a cohesive whole but is also 12 songs that can stand independently. It is not a concept album in the contrived sense. Every song has a personality of its own and all those hues on life and love and family and God and war all weave into a remembering, a celebration and a catharsis.
As readers of this blog will know I have a strong belief in the power of song. One of those places where I believe it to be more powerful is in the pastoral and even more specifically at a time of loss. Patty Griffin has used her art as her way to deal with her loss. Anyone in a similar situation will find catharsis here. The opening Wherever You Wanna Go with its sense of freedom and release of the loved one in death leads to the loved ones left to deal with the void Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone and That Kind Of Lonely, the latter being one of the saddest songs I have ever heard.
Thirty two years old before she released that debut album 17 years ago, Griffin’s art has always been stamped with the word MATURITY! This collection is her most mature yet, her best album yet and raises the Americana bar to new heights.