Ever since releasing her first album in 1996, critics have been raving about Patty Griffin and her songs. While you're unlikely to hear Patty singing them on most U.S. commercial radio stations, that doesn't mean that she's not a success. The Dixie Chicks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Martina McBride, even Jessica Simpson have turned Patty's songs into hit records. VOA's Katherine Cole reports on Patty Griffin's newest album, Children Running Through.
Patty Griffin has a voice that sounds wistful to some listeners. But don't confuse wistful with weak. Her songs are quiet, but they're always powerful. Take, for example, Trapeze, that duet with Emmylou Harris. Written from a childhood memory of a circus performance, it's the story of a female trapeze artist, someone who knows she has to take risks in order to fully experience life.
That's just what Patty Griffin has done in her own career. Born in Maine, Griffin was the youngest of seven children. By age 12, Patty realized she liked to sing more than anything else. Soon she began writing. She never gave much thought to being a professional musician until she was in her late 20s. Today, Patty Griffin is the writer that many female singers, and their producers, turn to for subtle, understated, and elegant songs.
While she's often reluctant to talk about the experiences that led her to write some earlier songs, Patty says a good portion of Children Running Through comes from her own childhood. "Burgundy Shoes," a song with the one-word chorus, "sun", comes out of her happy memory of a shopping trip with her mother.
Patty Griffin is known for writing dark or moody songs, so much so that she was recently challenged by a friend to write something in a more joyful style. "Burgundy Shoes" was the result of that challenge.
Except to call it "beautiful," it is hard to define what kind of music Patty Griffin is making on her new CD. She's not simply a singer-songwriter or a country singer. It is fair to call her a "folk singer," as the songs on Children Running Through are folk songs in the historical sense of the words: Songs that come out of a combination of bits and pieces of all kinds of American music. There is not just one sound on this album. Rock, blues, soul, gospel and jazz are all mixed into a working combination. More rock than folk, and featuring a horn section, "No Bad News" is one of the more uptempo songs on Children Running Through. It sounds almost like an anthem.
Patty Griffin's songs are not only about life's difficulties, but also about the things that bring us joy and hope. People already in love with her storytelling will find much to like on Children Running Through. Reviewers worldwide are calling it "a masterpiece," and "near perfect." That means those new to Patty Griffin's talent should be easily won over by this collection of 12 original songs.