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Patty Griffin - In the name of the father
on 13 May 2013
For the first time since 2007's "Children Running Through" Patty Griffin has recorded an album of original material and its quiet wonder. "American Kid" is an album of songs largely dedicated to her extraordinary father, a former Second World War veteran, Trappist monk and parent of seven. It is a deeply personal statement which in turn makes for one of her finest and most introspective records. Her voice throughout is in turns sweet, haunting and pristine and she is backed by a variety of premier division musicians not least North Mississippi Allstars/brothers Cody and Luther Dickinson and fellow Band of Joy member Robert Plant. Indeed there has been much online speculation about whether Percy and Patty are married or not? Griffin has recently dismissed this but they are clearly soul mates and Plant sings backing on three of the album tracks.
Griffin bookends this album with two songs about the death of her father that are raw yet considerably lifted by her searing vocals. The album commences with open-hearted "Go Wherever You Wanna Go." infused with lines which reference her fathers life and a nod to his journey to a higher spiritual plane. It is a genuinely lovely feast but is easily matched by the closing sweet melancholy of the bluesy "Gonna Miss You When You're Gone". Here she wears a broken heart on her sleeve and we respond by trying to hide that large lump in our throats. In between Griffin shows that she is every bit the equal of the great country singers like Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris with some stellar songs. One of these is a superb duet with Plant on "Ohio" a haunting alt country lament with an excellent accompanying video. The album's only cover, Lefty Frizzell's classic "Mom and Dad's Waltz," is very well executed with a sparse sounding guitar and mandolin accompanying Griffin's tremendous singing. More hard edged support comes from the Dickenson brothers on the more rocking blues of "Don't let me die in Florida" where Griffin shows her versatility. In the midst of all this we get effortless Griffin acoustic ballads like the aching "Wild old dog", the slow country of "Mom and Dad's Waltz" and the deeply sad piano lament "Irish Boy" which is just plain wonderful. The mood is lifted by the old time jaunty skiffle of "Get Ready Marie" but overall the ambience is sombre and often cathartic. Some songs like the hurting "That kind of lonely" and "Not a bad man" about her fathers enlistment are almost too sad to endure.
"American Kid" is a deeply personal record and feels like a form of musical exorcism for Griffin. It represents a mature statement by a superb musician coming to terms with the big themes of life, its comings, it's everyday pleasures plus its painful departures. Throughout she proves she has one of the best and most emotive singing voices in modern music and now sits right bang smack on the top of the pinnacle of Americana music. Honestly this reviewer can't recommend "American Kid" highly enough.