Archive for the Patty Griffin Category

Best of 2010: 12-10

Posted in Drunk on Crutches, Patty Griffin, Tift Merritt, Top 21 of 2010 on December 25, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

We’re kicking into overdrive now. The Top 10 begins in this post.

#12 – Downtown Church by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of my all time favorites.  From her acoustic only debut album Living With Ghosts to her her much heavier produced follow up Flaming Red to the more polished and mature releases of her tenure with ATO Records, Griffin has hit a home run with me on nearly every one of her albums.  Griffin’s music was one of the first topics I ever discussed with my wife, and her music has always been present at each important stage in our time together.  She has the voice of an angel, and certain moments of her live shows fall just short of being religious experiences.  Recording a gospel album was a fully logical step.

This isn’t just any gospel album, though.  It has that rare combination of musical and spiritual resonance that you won’t find in your average praise band.  Producer and Americana All-Star Buddy Miller teams with Griffin to create beautifully textured songs that grab both the ear and the soul.  Friends like Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, Julie Miller, Mike Farris, and Regina & Ann McCrary joined Griffin for the recording sessions at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church. I like to imagine the recording sessions as little church services led by Griffin as she recorded her vocals from the pulpit.  The word you’re looking for is “Hallelujah.”

Patty Griffin: If I Had My Way (Buy Album)

#11 – See You on the Moon by Tift Merritt

As an artist, Tift Merritt has always been about evolution.  Merritt’s sound has morphed over the years from the classic country of her early duets with The Two Dollar Pistols to the Memphis soul of Tambourine to the layered and varied sounds of See You on the Moon.  She is one of those artists that I’ve followed from the very beginning, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow over the years.  She has evolved into a very formidable artist and someone who never seems to disappoint with her music.

For her new record, Merritt took another step forward and exposed another facet of her sound.  The sweeping strings and subtle hand-clap percussion of “Mixtape” give that track an R&B vibe while the deeply layered and textured “Feel of the World” (with Jim James of My Morning Jacket) is among the most ambitious tracks in Merritt’s catalogue.  You can credit producer Tucker Martine for providing Merritt with some of the direction needed to pull off this next step in her evolution, but you also need to credit Merritt herself for being willing to take that step in the first place.

Tift Merritt: Feel of the World (Buy Album)

#10 – People. Places. Things. by Drunk on Crutches

Los Angeles’ Drunk on Crutches was easily my favorite surprise of 2010.  It all started when I saw People. Places. Things. posted on ReviewShine, and I couldn’t help but wonder what a band named Drunk on Crutches would sound like.  I fell in love with the album on first listen, posted a brief review on the site, and started playing a couple of tracks on WDVX.  Well it turns out that lead singer Jennifer Whittenburg’s mother listens to WDVX and heard me playing her daughter’s music.  She posted a few times on the WDVX facebook page, I contacted her back, and before long the band from L.A. was in Knoxville doing a live spot on the Blue Plate Special.

Drunk on Crutches play a guitar fueled brand of roots rock that is immediately memorable and full of hooks.  Whittenburg’s voice is both breathy and powerful, making her vocals just as effective in the quiet moments (“Oh Well”) as it is in the loud ones (“Tupelo,” “Using Me Up,” “Drink Up Buttercup”).  For those of you like me who came to Americana from the Rock & Roll side of the fence, this is one you need to hear.  Turn it up to eleven, sit back, and enjoy.

Drunk on Crutches: Tupelo (Buy Album)

Happy Holidays everybody!

Rain

Posted in Patty Griffin on September 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I was feeling pretty miserable when I was driving to work this morning.  It was cold.  It was dark.  It was hazy.  It was raining.  It was just an awful and miserable morning, and I didn’t much feel like being a part of it.

Then the live version of Patty Griffin’s “Rain” came on the radio, and I just felt better.  The song is pretty dark and depressing in its own right, but it was the perfect song at the perfect time.  That’s why I’m sharing it now.

“Rain” is also my wife’s favorite song, and today is her birthday.  So… here it is.

Patty Griffin: Rain (Buy Album)

2010 Americana Music Award Nominees: Album of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Dave Rawlings Machine, Patty Griffin, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rosanne Cash on September 6, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

For me, this is the biggest award of the night. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that the album is the highest form of artistic expression for an artist. Even as it seems many artists and record labels are focusing more and more on singles these days, I’ll always take a great album over a great single. I also find it very telling about the Americana Music Association as a whole that their radio airplay charts are based on album spins rather than airplay for specific singles. How many other charts do that?

You probably know the story of Rosanne Cash’s The List by now. When Rosanne was younger, her father (Johnny Cash) gave her a list of 100 songs that he considered to be the best that country music had to offer. Rosanne studied that list for over thirty years… becoming intimately familiar with each song. This album is comprised of twelve of those songs, lovingly selected and performed by Rosanne to honor the memory of her father and an entire generation of country music legends. Friends such as Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Tweedy, Elvis Costello, and Rufus Wainright help her give The List life.

Rosanne Cash: Sea of Heartbreak (Buy Album)

This is the second of four nominations for Dave Rawlings and his Machine. He’s also tabbed in the Artist, Song, and Duo/Group categories. As I mentioned in the Duo/Group post, A Friend of a Friend showcases Dave Rawlings the songwriter, the vocalist, and the musician as he finally gets the chance to step out in front of the show instead of merely playing in the background. Rawlings wrote or co-wrote seven of the nine songs on the album and brings them to life brilliantly alongside his friends Gillian Welch, Benmont Tench, and several members of the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Dave Rawlings Machine: I Hear Them All (Buy Album)

Like Rosanne’s album, Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church plays as a bit of a concept record. Griffin and producer Buddy Miller (the most decorated artist in AMA history) recorded this gospel record entirely in Nashville’s 160-year-old Downtown Presbyterian Church in January of 2009. The mix of traditional gospel songs and hymns, contemporary numbers by the likes of Hank Williams Sr. and Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, and Griffin originals play as one long spiritual journey through song. It’s a mix that sounds just as good in the middle of the week as it does on a Sunday morning.

Patty Griffin: House of Gold (Buy Album)

The final nominee is Ray Wylie Hubbard’s A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment, (Hint: There is No C.). If the title seems confusing, the record itself is not. It is simply Ray Wylie Hubbard being Ray Wylie Hubbard with a mix of gravel smooth vocals over over gritty and dirty country/blues riffs that could only come from Texas. Hubbard has made a fine career out of this sound, and this album is simply a continuation of that. He sings wasps, women, tornados, music, and religion and tackles each with the same grit and fire. Pop in this CD and prepare to be Enlightened.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Loose (Buy Album)
This is another tough category to pick. I have a hard time thinking of cover albums as Album of the Year material, yet that is essentially what we have with Rosanne Cash and Patty Griffin. The problem is that Griffn’s album is also my favorite of these four. I guess I just can’t shake that Southern Baptist upbringing of mine. As for who I think will win… I’m actually kind of stumped. I’ll go with Rawlings based on the strength of his four total nominations.
My prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine
My vote (If I had one): Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin: Downtown Church

Posted in Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin on February 3, 2010 by AmericanaPulse
Patty Griffin has always had the voice of an angel. Whether accompanied by the simple strums of an acoustic guitar as on her debut album Living with Ghosts or soaring over the complex arrangements of her more richly produced later catalogue, her voice has always been the defining element of her sound. And it’s always been heavenly. It’s only fitting now that Patty is lending her voice to a collection of gospel and gospel inspired tunes on her new CD, Downtown Church.

For this album, Patty teamed with ultra talented Buddy Miller as her producer. Buddy leads Patty through a set of 14 tracks including two originals, several hymns and gospel standards, and tunes written by Hank Williams and Leiber & Stoller among others. The production is an important element here. Most of the time when I think of a straight gospel record, I think of something austere and… well… bland. That’s not the case here. Patty and Buddy never let you get the sense that you’ve heard this all before.

Much like Buddy’s own gospel album, Universal United House of Prayer (the 2005 Americana Album of the Year), the music is the primary focus. Patty’s regular guitarist and bandleader Doug Lancio leads a wonderful group of players that is primarily composed of members of the Raising Sand (Alison Krauss & Robert Plant) touring band. Add to that guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Mike Farris, Buddy & Julie Miller, and Regina & Ann McCrary.

With their help, songs like “Move Up,” “If I Had My Way,” and “I Smell a Rat” shuffle along with a definite purpose and a danceable country-blues shuffle. Even the old standby “Wade in the Water” is made to pop with a resonantly thumping stand up bass line and understated electric guitars. There’s plenty here to keep the ear of listeners who would never attend a Sunday service.
That’s not to say there aren’t some Sunday morning sounds present. “Never Grow Old” is a song I heard nearly every Sunday in the small town Freewill Baptist church where I was raised, and it’s performed with great reverence here. The album closing “All Creatures of Our God & King” is a beautifully sombre hymn that is effective with only Patty and a piano carrying the tune. It serves as an effective alter call at the end of the service.
The album is granted even more authenticity when you learn that Patty recorded the majority of her vocals while standing in the pulpit of the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville. The 160-year-old church provided the perfect backdrop for this project and helped to infuse it with the spiritual trueness that an album like this needs.
Here are two tracks from the album… “Move Up” and “Never Grow Old.” Both are traditional gospel tunes, but are presented in differing styles here. The Staples Singers inspired “Move Up” serves as a solid contrast to the more stoic “Never Grow Old.” These two songs provide a good feel for the different styles and influences present on Downtown Church, and showcase why this album is such a compelling listen.
Patty Griffin: Move Up (Buy Album)
Patty Griffin: Never Grow Old (Buy Album)

NPR First Listen: Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church

Posted in Patty Griffin on January 15, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

On Tuesday, I mentioned that Patty Griffin’s new CD Downtown Church is set for release January 26th. I also mentioned that you could hear a track from the album at Patty’s MySpace page.

You can still do that… You can also now listen to the album in its entirety courtesy of NPR’s First Listen series. The album features two original gospel tunes from Patty alongside a slew of standard numbers. Buddy Miller produced the project which features vocals from Buddy, Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, and the McCrary Sisters.

I haven’t had the chance to listen to the whole thing yet, but I plan to real soon. You can too if you follow this link.

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: Honorable Mention

Posted in Hayes Carll, Loretta Lynn, Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, The Avett Brothers, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on December 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

We’ve almost made it all the way to the number one spot on the list of my favorite albums of the past decade. Before we get to that #1 spot, however, I’d like to quickly run through a few albums that just as easily could (should?) have been included on the list instead. Here are five “Honorable Mention” albums listed alphabetically by artist.

First up is Ryan Adams’ 2001 release Gold. It’s very likely that this album would be on the final list if not for the fact that it was mislabeled on my iTunes, and I skipped over it when I was making my preliminary list. By the time I discovered my mistake, the final order was set, and I couldn’t really justify removing any of the other albums to make room for this one.

Still, this is one damn fine album, and one of the first “Americana” albums I was ever given. Lost Highway sent roughly a dozen copies to our station, and our music director loved the album so much he made sure that all the student workers got a copy. I remember it taking me several listens to warm up to the album as a whole, but I was instantly grabbed by tracks like “Firecracker” and “When the Stars Go Blue.” I’m glad I stuck with it.

Ryan Adams: Firecracker (Buy Album)

Next is the Avett Brothers’ 2004 effort Mignonette. The Avett Brothers are another one of those artists I fell in love with at the 2004 Americana Music Association Conference. They played the conference opening party on Thursday night at The Mercy Lounge, and I made a special point to see them again later that week at The Station Inn as well. I had never seen anything quite like them before with their string band sound and punk rock ethos.

I was completely entranced by their live show and found much to love on this album as well. Where the show drew me in with pure energy, the album showed that the band could deftly create those quieter moments as well. This album was the perfect mixture of the bombastic (“Hard Worker,” “Nothing Short of Thankful”) and the sublime (“Swept Away,” “SSS”). This song has a decent dose of both flavors.

Avett Brothers: Please Pardon Yourself (Buy Album)

If I continued to rank things beyond #10, this one might actually be #11. The 2005 release Little Rock was actually the sophomore effort for Hayes, but this is the one that put the Houston born songwriter on the map. It’s full of the same sort of rough edged tunes that have become the calling card of this road worn artist. You can actually feel the road beneath Hayes’ wheels on tunes like “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” “Sit in with the Band” and the title track.

Little Rock also holds the distinction of being the first independent release to make it to the number one spot on the Americana Album Airplay chart. Hayes is still one of only two artists (Band of Heathens) to accomplish that feat. We’ve played this album so much at WDVX that it will no longer load in our CD players.

Hayes Carll: Down the Road Tonight (Buy Album)

If I had made a list of favorite artists of the decade, there is no doubt that Patty Griffin would be at or near the top. Her body of work is incredibly strong, and I don’t think there is a finer vocalist working in the business today. What she doesn’t have, however, is that one album that grabs hold of me and keeps me enthralled from start to finish. Her albums in this decade are a little more serene overall than the two she put out in the 1990’s.

All of them except for her unreleased gem Silver Bell from 2000. This album brings the fire on songs like the punkish title track, the churning “Sorry & Sad,” and the rollicking “Boston.” Of course, the quieter moments are here as well in early versions of “Making Pies” and “Top of the World.” There’s also a great, country duet with Emmylou Harris on “Truth #2.” Patty’s label refused to release the album because it wasn’t radio friendly enough. Idiots.

Patty Griffin: Boston (You can’t buy this album, but Patty has tons of other great stuff out there)

The most surprising album of the decade may have been Loretta Lynn’s 2004 release Van Lear Rose. Loretta had been largely absent from the music world for most of the 1990’s and had all but disappeard from the public consciousness. Like many of her contemporaries, she had been rendered mostly irrelevant by the changing aesthetic of popular country radio. That all changed with this album when Loretta teamed with producer Jack White of The White Stripes to blend her classic country sound with his modern rock production.

There is also a certain geographical element that speaks to me on this album. I grew up in the same rural Eastern Kentucky county where Loretta was raised. I spent a good part of my childhood in Van Lear, KY… my babysitter lived there. The song I’m featuring here may be about the West Coast, but I’m always transported back home when I listen to this album.

Loretta Lynn: Portland, Oregon (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Patty Griffin

Posted in Patty Griffin on September 19, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Because this lady is seriously under represented on this site…