Sometimes a songwriter who records an album of songs about their parents ends up making the best record of their career. There’s a lot to work with when taking into account that the songs can be about one or both parents, can be dedicated to them or can be written from their perspective because who better does one know than their parents? Patty Griffin‘s new record American Kid consists of these methods in songs for, about and through the eyes of her late father, a war veteran.
But maybe not, as she suggests in Faithful Son where she sings about the secrets that parents keep from their children in order to maintain a more positive perception through their eyes. In the song, Patty sings “little children came and grew/moved away and never knew/who I was or who I am/they never knew this lonely man.” Patty references her father at different intervals throughout his life including during his time served in the army in Not A Bad Man while in Irish Boy, she presents his vow that he will “show you all something someday.”
This record fits within the boundaries of modern-day Americana more-so than any of Patty’s previous ones but despite the name American Kid, there are several songs on here that deviate from that sound, occasionally going toward a more traditionally styled route of songwriting and singing. Songs like Irish Boy and Get Ready Marie offer varying levels of old-styled folk while Mom And Dad’s Waltz, a cover of a 1950s country song by Lefty Frizzle, and is a strategically chosen homage to her parents. These are the songs that are structured classics.
There are other tracks on the record that are easy Patty classics as well. Songs that fit perfectly in line with much of her admired earlier work such as Go Wherever You Wanna Go, Not A Bad Man and Wild Old Dog. It’s with the songs that have a heavier presence of collaborator Robert Plant that aren’t in line with the record. Where the rest of the album is comfortably a solid Patty Griffin record, the first single Ohio has an arrangement that is overbearing and therefore unable to maintain that same level of comfort, sounding like it was lifted from Raising Sand, Plant’s record with Alison Krauss.
Coming out of left field is Get Ready Marie. A light-hearted take on her grandparents’ early days. With this song, she’s taken a completely different approach in how it is written, performed and recorded as she jokes, lets loose and opens a lesser-seen side of her musically that is appreciated, even if it’s not completely welcomed by hard-core enthusiasts. It’s perfect for a kitchen party singalong.
American Kid is a rewarding record in that it has enough layers for anyone to find something new to appreciate over many listens. There are songs that are entire gems themselves but also individual verses and lines that can stand out at a time when most appropriate. As her first album of original material in six years, Patty has created material that should help her maintain her place one of today’s prime songwriters.
1. Go Wherever You Wanna Go
2. Don’t Let Me Die In Florida
4. Wild Old Dog
5. Mom & Dad’s Waltz
6. Faithful Son
7. Highway Song
8. That Kind Of Lonely
9. Irish Boy
10. Get Ready Marie
11. Not A Bad Man
12. Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone