Patty Griffin – Silver Bell
Despite only just becoming available for the first time, Patty Griffin‘s record Silver Bell already boasts a richer history than most. Originally intended for release in 2000, record label politics kept it at bay until finally receiving a release last month.
That didn’t stop songs from being bootlegged and eventually making their way out in other forms. Songs from Silver Bell would go on to be covered by the Wreckers (One More Girl), Joan Osborne (What You Are) and, most notably, the Dixie Chicks, who named a tour and live album after Top Of The World (they also recorded Truth #2). Earlier this year, DCX singer Natalie Maines recorded Silver Bell for her first solo album Mother.
It’s interesting that most of those songs are the folkier selections from an album where more than half of the songs could fit comfortably within the label of “alternative” – at least in the 1990s definition.
Unsurprisingly, that sound was natural for Patty, with songs like the haunting opener Little God, the sultry distortion of Pretty White Girls, and Sooner Or Later – which could have been a cut from Sheryl Crow‘s 1996 self-titled record.
Yet, Silver Bell served as a crossroad of sorts for Patty, who had yet to carve out a clear direction for her music. It expanded on the sound that formed from her previous release Flaming Red, yet the increasing presence of her folk roots gave way to some of the best songs in her catalogue.
While Top Of The World is easily the most recognizable song on the record, thanks in part to the Dixie Chicks but also because of its persistent nature of showing up on Impossible Dream and becoming a staple at her shows, One More Girl is equally deserving as Patty sings about the vulnerability of a girl pouring her heart out on stage to a shallow audience.
The album ends with the humbling So Long, one of two songs not on the original track list. It’s a rough recording that shines in contrast with the production of the rest of the album, evidence that Patty has indeed taken the best route with her music, sounding brighter when not buried in heavy production.
A 13-year delay may have been the best thing to happen to Silver Bell and for Patty Griffin.
Had it been released as planned in 2000, it would have already sounded dated and could have painted her as a behind-the-times singer/songwriter. Instead, the record serves as a warm reminder of the consistency of Patty’s output, whether considered to be her third album or her eighth.
It’s a story of triumph against time and circumstance, where she was given the opportunity to focus on her craft of creating timeless songs that have positioned her as one of the most respected songwriters in folk and americana.
1. Little God
2. Truth #2
4. Perfect White Girls
5. Sooner Or Later
6. What You Are
7. Silver Bell
9. Mother Of God
10. One More Girl
11. Sorry And Sad
13. Top Of The World
14. So Long