The music of Patty Griffin‘s 10th album aims for a more overarching experience as it conjures images of drifting down the Mississippi on a steamboat with a soundtrack of jazz and folk playing in the background. The guitar whips through the air followed by Patty’s smokey voice cutting through the water. The album is adorned with lyrics about strength, determination, sorrow and loss as she weaves stories from her own experiences, those of relatives and ones plucked from the news. Where I Come From recounts her childhood home in a town that has seen more prosperous days. Boys From Tralee depicts the harrowing tale of her grandfather’s journey of immigration, in circumstances likely not much different than today. The Wheel references a fatal case of police brutality against a Black man in New York. In each case, she intricately tells the story with emotion, heart and trust.
Most notable about the album is the range of sounds Patty captures throughout while keeping it fairly minimal on the instrumentation and production. You can practically feel the air resonate from the guitar strings at some points and her voice has never felt closer to the speaker.
Like Griffin’s other records, it isn’t without that signature heartbreak that she has long mastered. Had A Good Reason wastes no time setting the story about a child left behind to question why her mother left and that she isn’t coming back. “I used to think it might be who I am/Maybe who I am wasn’t right/And I’d wonder if you missed me the same way/Lonely day after lonely night/But I know you must’ve had a good reason.”
Patty Griffin is a consistent record with few low points. And while it doesn’t reach the heights that most of her previous records have, as a whole from start to finish, it is one of her strongest. To say that more than 20 years into a career is a rarity. Perhaps the best descriptor for the album is one she herself sings on Bluebeard, “the music had me in a trance.” Yep.
Check out: Had A Good Reason, River, Just The Same
1. Mama’s Worried
3. Where I Come From
5. Had A Good Reason
7. What Now
8. Luminous Places
10. Boys From Tralee
11. The Wheel
12. What I Remember
13. Just The Same