Since most of the musicians I listen to are centuries dead (classical), gone kaput (very ironic, Civil Wars), deeply reclusive – where are you, Joni? – or really too old to be strutting around on a stage (this might mean you, Mick Jagger…) I was pretty excited to learn that Patty Griffin was coming to town. I don’t remember where, when or how I found her, but hers are among the few songs on my iPod playlist that never get skipped.
In the week before the concert, I told five different people I was going to see Patty Griffin and every single one of them responded “Who?” One of them is my dear husband, who, bless his heart, is a perennial good sport about being dragged to see my latest musical crush. “Sure, I’ll go”, he says, bravely, knowing there’s a chance he will be a lonely guy in an audience of sensitive and soulfully-inclined women, as he was when we saw Sarah McLachlan recently at the Beacon Theatre in New York.
Judging from the crowd at UCSB’s Campbell Hall last weekend, Patty Griffin’s demographic is 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. While we were on the far end of the age distribution (that’s a given these days…) the CE was, thankfully, far from the only husband dragged out on a Sunday night to see a performer he’d never heard of.
How is it so many of you have never heard of the great Patty Griffin?
Lord knows, I can’t fix immigration or the mess in the Middle East, but I am here to right the great wrong that is the criminal obscurity of Patty Griffin. She is a sweet and spunky little life force, blessed with a silvery voice imbued with just the right touch of rasp that tells you she knows what it’s like to be tossed around a bit by the storms of life. If you doubt it, just take a close look at her lyrics:
“Headlights searching down the driveway
Our house as dark as it can be
I go inside and all is silent
It seems as empty as the inside of me
I’ve had some time to think about it
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I’ve had some time to think about you
On the long, on the long
Oh the long, on the long
On the long ride home”
She’s good enough that I’m having a hard time picking just one of her songs to recommend. There are my personal favorites, “Top of the World” and “Peter Pan” but they may be just a tinge too wrist-slitting for the rest of you (by the way, researchers just found that listening to sad music actually improves your sense of well-being). So I’ll give you the top track of hers on YouTube, the hauntingly lovely “Rain”:
Or how about the relationally instructive “Let Him Fly”:
I tried to describe her to the CE as “a little bit Bonnie Raitt, a little bit Emmylou”. Turns out she and Emmy Lou are friends, have toured together and teamed up to record the country ballad “Little Fire”. Pandora Radio suggests that if you like Cheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin, Dar or Lucinda Williams or Beth Orton, you will also be a Patty Griffin fan. But I’ll go out on a limb and say that I think Patty is at the top of that heap.
And I’ll admit it, I was pouting a bit over the fact that none of my friends seemed to share in my love for Patty Griffin or even heard of her. But then I ran into someone a few days after the concert and mentioned it in passing. “You saw Patty Griffin?! Wow!”, he enthused. Turns out at least one person I know is a big fan. His first question: “Did she play “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida”? Yup, she did, and it was great:
Patty Griffin is sufficiently eclectic to defy an easy label, although after the concert the CE summed her up as having “an Austin sound”, and, indeed, Austin is where she lives and records. But I think her talent is too big for just one genre so you could say folk or you could say rockabilly or you could even call her a gospel singer or a balladeer and you would be right on all counts. I’m going to borrow from some of Joni’s lyrics to describe her:
“I’m a country station
I’m a little bit corny
I’m a wildwood flower
Waving for you
I’m a broadcasting tower
Waving for you
And I’m sending you out
This signal here
I hope you can pick it up
Loud and clear”
However you decide to describe her, I just hope you’ll listen to her. Turn it up loud. She’ll break your heart and make your day.