2015 CD REVIEW
SERVANT OF LOVE (Thirty Tigers)
SHOOTING TRIGGERS GRIFFIN
“Rich man has his money/ what can a poor man claim/ what can a poor man call his own/ pawns of another rich man's game/ he lights a fire to distract/ from all the things that we have lost/ fiery fingers point and blame/ and burn into a fiery cross.” - Good And Gone - Patty Griffin.
“I was thinking about the young man who made the phone call. John Crawford III was an African-American man who was shot by a police officer while holding an unloaded pellet gun he'd picked up from a Walmart shelf. The officer was responding to a 911 caller accusing Crawford of waving a loaded gun at children in the store. Neither the officer nor caller were indicted.”
Although the shooting was recent it was not isolated.
“I don't think it's that topical,” Griffin explained.
“It's an ancient problem. In our culture, it's hundreds and hundreds of years old. One of the things that has always gone on is beating up on poor people and unfairness via economic circumstances. Instead of going to the source of that problem, people point blame at things that have nothing to with their frustration.”
Racism also pervaded her home state.
“Well, Maine has its own racial issues, there's a really big Native American culture there that has suffered,” she added.
She follows with Hurt A Little While then explores an absent daughter's servitude in a foreign country in 250,000 Miles - one of three featuring vocals by Shawn Colvin.
“I tried to throw myself into darkness while writing Servant of Love influenced by that creativity,” Griffin recalled.
“I think I tried to hire a new editor - don't throw things away so easily. If you're working on ideas and you don't know what they are, keep working on them. You don't know what they'll be.”
“There ain't nothing coming down the muddy river/ just an oil slick and the smell of fear/ I heard strange music coming down the muddy river/ the last night before those years,” - Everything's Changed - Patty Griffin.
Griffin is not the first artist to explore the aftermath of ecological disasters.
Hurricane Katrina inspired new tune Everything's Changed .
Gretchen Peters also personalised families suffering in the aftermath of the BP oil slick disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico in recent tune Black Ribbons that she penned with Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss.
The singer has reflected her ecological beliefs in her songs.
“Human beings can do better than they're doing,” Griffin says.
“So I am angry at the cynicism and I'm angry at the greed, and I'm tired of that kind of outlook on the world. I mean, I love distracting myself, just like anyone else. But I also feel a more urgent need in myself to make an effort, to be present, and to try to be something that is in favor of life. Of human life. And of human life being a balanced part of this planet. And that didn't happen for me until I got old. Not really.”
Although song topics are wide ranging her instrumentation is not.
“I really wanted to keep this fairly stripped down,” Griffin confessed.
“There's a full sound on some things, but it's pretty sparse, musically - not a lot of musicians playing all at once. The producer, Craig Ross and I talked about this as it was being written, and we got together periodically and knocked out what we wanted it to be. Mostly, we just wanted it to be a folk record. We had a few reference points for that sound, and that was what we did.”
That's reflected in the beguiling Snake Charmer and the equine nostalgia of Rider of Days .
LOVE AND OTHER PLANTS
“I don't believe in love like that anyway/ I would have told you that if you'd have asked me/ the kind that comes along once and saves everything between a woman and a man.” - You Never Asked Me - Patty Griffin.
"There's so many moments at this stage of my life when I feel like the disillusionment is no longer crushing - it's kind of expected, you know? Those sorts of things start occurring to you, and it's a little sad, but it's also a relief to strive for other things that are not quite so impossible."
Griffin's songs have been cut by major artists including Texans Dixie Chicks and Kelly Clarkson, Emmylou Harris and Kasey Chambers but her new domicile is not just a geographical gulf from the musical mainstream of former home Nashville.
“It hasn't interested me for a while,” Griffin added.
“I don't know why that it is. Not the modern popular country music, it doesn't float my boat. I liked old stuff. There's a lot of talent in Nashville, but I think there are too many moments of listening to song content and not getting anything out of it for my heart. So I just stopped listening to it.”
“I'm gonna let it be the sun/ in more ways than one/ run out of its horizon/ I'm gonna let it be the night/ for I've had my day dancing at the back door/ I'm gonna let it hear the prayer/ no matter who is there/ no matter who is listening/ I'm gonna let the dream tell me what it has always known/ the moonlight and the glistening waves” - Shine A Different Way - Patty Griffin.
Griffin mixes nostalgia with optimism in the reflective Made Of The Sun and wanderlust laced There Isn't One Way.
But there's a fierce pride in Noble Ground and undying optimism in her mandolin tinged finale Shine A Different Way.
Griffin's music has embraced gospel but Austin has also exposed her to a south of the border music oasis.
“Recently I've been listening to a lot of Mexican music,” Griffin added.
“A friend of mine introduced me to a band from Monterrey. They're called the Mexican Institute of Sound. There's a phenomenal scene from Monterrey, and I just think Mexican of Institute of Sound is so talented. I don't understand the lyrics, but it doesn't matter.
“A lot of things drew me to Texas. One is the wilderness: It's pretty close to wide open spaces, which I didn't grow up around and I love. You don't have to have a lot of money to have a view: The view is the sky, and it's everywhere. The other thing is I like being close to Mexico. It's quite a country, and there's so much creativity - the writing, the visual arts and the music.”
So what about the politics of Texas that has twice driven singing crime novelist Kinky Friedman to throw his hat into the ring?
“I feel two ways about Texas,” Griffin says.
“Sometimes I'm horrified by the political structure here. I feel like both parties misrepresent the average citizen of Texas, and there seem to be some crazy political motivations going on that I find hard to stomach. But I love Texas itself. The landscape is remarkable. The combination of cultures here is incredible. And the history here is pretty remarkable too, going back centuries. I'm not really sure sometimes what I'm doing here, but there's a part of me that loves it and is rooting for it, for the best of it to come forward.”'
It's no surprise her songs have been featured in movies and TV shows.
In 1997 Not Alone from debut album Living with Ghosts featured in the final scene and credits for Niagara , Niagara , and appeared on the 2009 soundtrack for TV series, Without a Trace , and Crossing Jordan .
One Big Love from Flaming Red was featured in final scenes and credits of the film Digging to China.
Griffin appeared in several movies including Cremaster 2 and Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, whose soundtrack included her song Long Ride Home and a cover of Moon River by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini.
In 2009 Griffin's song Mary was featured on Sons of Anarchy and in May 2015 this year her song Go Wherever You Wanna Go was featured in Supernatural.