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…

Americana Award Winners & Other Notes

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, BettySoo, Buddy and Julie Miller, Buddy Miller, Gurf Morlix, Justin Townes Earle, Patty Griffin, Porterdavis on September 18, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***Well… The results are in from last night’s Americana Honors and Awards Show, and the winners are Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Gurf Morlix, and Justin Townes Earle.

Obviously, Buddy was the big winner on the night. He walked away with wins for “Artist of the Year,” “Duo/Group of the Year” with his wife Julie Miller, “Album of the Year” for Written in Chalk (also with Julie), and “Song of the Year” for his duet with Patty Griffin called “Chalk.”
With his four wins last night, Buddy now has nine Americana Music Awards to his credit. He has two previous wins in the album category for Buddy & Julie Miller in 2002 and Universal United House of Prayer in 2005. He’s also a two-time winner of the instrumentalist award and was honored in the song category for “Worry too Much” in 2005. It’s quite the impressive resume.
The other two award winners, Morlix and Earle, both were presented with their first Americana trophies. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Morlix took home the “Instrumentalist of the Year” award while Earle was honored with the “Best New/Emerging Aritst” trophy.
***Speaking of Gurf Morlix… Thanks to A Truer Sound for introducing me to Asian-American Americana songwriter BettySoo. BettySoo hails from Texas, and her latest album Heat Sin Water Skin features Morlix as a player and producer. You can read about BettySoo… and watch some videos… over at A Truer Sound, or stream and purchase the album here. You can also stream most of her entire catalogue on her website. She’s worth checking out.
***One more Morlix related note… Be on the lookout for my first ever CD giveaway contest sometime next week. I have an autographed copy of the debut studio album from Porterdavis to send somebody’s way. Morlix produced the album, and it sounds great. Look for info on the giveaway (and interview/performance audio from the band) on Monday.
***Finally, a couple of loyal readers of this site were featured recently on CNN, and I think that’s pretty cool.
I was first introduced to Steve and Jill Kaufmann when I was the host of Americana Crossroads at Morehead State Public Radio. They started listening to the show from their home in Lexington, KY and would send in the occasional e-mail when they heard something they really liked. We lost touch when I moved to Knoxville, but reconnected a while back through the blogosphere when I noticed I was receiving some traffic to this site from a blog called Off the Grid and On the Map.
As it turns out… the Kaufmanns had quit their jobs, sold their house, bought a van, and embarked on a long term driving tour of North America… and they were blogging about it. They would listen to WDVX over the internet on their travels and had tracked me down through that. Pretty soon, I was getting e-mails from them in the studio at work… only now the messages were coming from Mexico and California instead of Lexington. I started following their travels on their website, and I guess I wasn’t the only one as Steve and Jill were recently featured on CNN.com.
In honor of Jill & Steve’s Excellent Adventure, here’s a song dedicated to them from the one and only Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash: I’ve Been Everywhere (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: Song of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, Buddy and Julie Miller, Kasey Chambers, Patty Griffin, Rodney Crowell, Shane Nicholson, The Flatlanders, The Gourds on August 28, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I previewed the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Awards and Honors and asked you to vote for who you thought should win. You chose The Band of Heathens by an almost two-to-one margin over Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles.

This week, we’re going to dip into another category and ask you to vote on the “Americana Song of the Year.”

We’ll start with “Chalk” by Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin from Buddy and Julie Miller’s 2009 release Written in Chalk. Julie wrote the song, but does not appear on the track… opting instead to let Patty Griffin lend her beautiful voice to provide the soaring harmonies to Buddy’s soulful and grounded baritone. It was the right choice. Lyrically, the song is a classic Julie Miller tune full of heartache, heartbreak, burdens carried, and promises written in chalk that are easily erased. The musical accompaniment is mostly subdued… strummed acoustic guitars, resonant drums, and soft piano flourishes… but the vocal performances of Buddy and Patty make the song an absolute powerhouse.

Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin: Chalk (Buy Album)

The perfect counterpoint to the restrained heartbreak of “Chalk” is the unbridled joy and energy of “Country Love” by The Gourds from their 2009 effort Haymaker. Vocalist Kevin Russell sets the tone for the song by shouting the opening line, “Wake up! We’re going to the country.” For the next 2:45 the listener is taken on a hayride through the backwoods… a place where sweet potatoes are divine, you can actually see the stars away from the city lights, and a little “country lovin'” can make everything alright. Accordions, twangy guitars, and shouts of joy fill the track. If you can’t dance to this one… you may just not dance at all.

The Gourds: Country Love (Buy Album)

We’re brought back to reality a bit by the third nominee, “Homeland Refugee” by The Flatlanders from their 2009 effort Hills and Valleys. On this track, Flatlanders Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock create a moving narrative by invoking imagery from past eras of American hardships such as The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl to illustrate some of the financial hardships being faced by many Americans today. Ely takes lead vocals on the track and tells of a protagonist forced to leave his home on the coast and return to a simpler life in middle America. He returns along the same path his forefathers used during our country’s time of expansion when people looked to the west to find better fortunes. A lyrical nod to Woody Guthrie only drives home the point that our “Pastures of Plenty” aren’t so plentiful anymore.

The Flatlanders: Homeland Refugee (Buy Album)

That brings us to “Rattlin’ Bones,” the title track of the 2008 release by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. The husband and wife team of Kasey and Shane take a few cues from the Carter Family on this track that is a true celebration of the roots of country and folk music. The instrumentation is sparse with just guitar, banjo, and drums. Kasey and Shane share the lead vocal in a back-and-forth style and combine to craft haunting harmonies in the chorus. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless. I don’t care if it comes from Australia… this IS Americana music.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones (Buy Album)

Our final nominee this year is the title track from Rodney Crowell’s 2008 effort Sex and Gasoline. As you may recall, I was a little underwhelmed by Rodney’s latest effort when it was released… but this track had nothing to do with that. The song is an indictment of a sexist society and a popular culture that bases a woman’s worth solely on her beauty and youth. Or to put it in Rodney’s words, “You ain’t nothin’ but the shape you’re in.” There is something wrong with a society in which a 30-year-old woman is looked upon as an “old hag.” Of course, Rodney Crowell has never been afraid to call a foul when he sees one.

Rodney Crowell: Sex and Gasoline (Buy Album)

As for who should and will win this one I think I’m going to have to go with Buddy and Patty on both counts. Buddy is the most awarded artist in the history of the Americana Music Awards, and he’s leading the house band for the awards show again this year. Patty is also a past winner at the awards and sports what may be the best voice in the industry. The dark horse here may be The Flatlanders. Voters for this award have gone for topical songs in the past, and this one is timely without being transparent.

My vote (if I had one): Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin
My prediction: Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin

Links: Because it’s been a few days

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller, Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle on January 19, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write this weekend… so here is some other stuff from around the blogs that you might be interested in.

*Ramblings on Music, Texas, Etc… has some more info on the new Buddy & Julie Miller disc that is coming out March 3rd. If you visit, you can see the Electronic Press Kit for the new album and the album cover (which I have posted above).

Ramblings also has some info about the next Patty Griffin album.

*I am Fuel, You are Friends has the scoop on the next Steve Earle project. Earle’s next album will be a collection of Townes Van Zandt covers. Earle already honored his late friend by naming his son (Justin Townes Earle) after him. Now he honors him again by keeping his music alive.

*You can still vote for your favorite albums of 2008 over at No Depression’s new website. I’ve already sent my vote in.

*What’s going on with Ryan Adams anyway? Is he quitting the music biz or just taking a break? This Mornin’ I am Born Again attempts to answer those questions.

Hopefully, he’s just taking some time off to recapture his muse. Here’s one of my favorite Ryan Adams songs from his solo debut Heartbreaker. This is how Ryan sounds when he’s at his best… someplace I don’t think he’s been for a while. Maybe he just needs a break.

Ryan Adams: Come Pick Me Up (Buy Album)