PATTY GRIFFIN Impossible Dream Proper Records (2005)
I’ve been aware of Patty Griffin for a while now. I’ve seen her albums as I’ve browsed the cd racks and I’ve been aware of her reputation as a rare talent among singer songwriters. Particularly those of a folk / country bent. But I’m ashamed to say, this is the first Patty Griffin I’ve actually heard. And I say ‘ashamed’, because Impossible Dream has just left me wanting more.
The album opens with a blinder. Love Throw a line is wonderful gospel tinged blues. Patty’s vocals make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Cold As It Gets an acoustic country number again Patty’s vocals lifting the song and capturing the listener. Kite Song a piano based ballad of equal intensity. Standing is pure gospel and when she sings ‘I’m standing in the shadow of the hill’ you’re there with her.
Useless Desires is ripe to be covered by The Dixie Chicks as was Top Of The World. The latter is perhaps a surprise choice for inclusion having featured on the Chicks 2002 release Home. But the version included here is even more ‘stripped back’ and Patty’s intimate vocals take it to another level
Row, Row, Row has a Simon and Garfunkel like structure with a haunting tuba / trumpet arrangement. When It Don’t Come Easy another slow burning number that subtly ignites into gospel and demonstrates again that there are some white artists who can do justice to black religious music .
Florida comes from the same songbook as Top Of The World. Mother Of God is a 7-minute piano based opus lamenting the passage of life. Icicles ends the album on the same melancholy note.
The album also includes 3 ‘bonus’ tracks – excellent live versions of Chief, Truth #2 and Rain - three songs from her previous album ‘1000 Kisses’. All were recorded at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in October 2003. Emmylou Harris guests on Truth #2 (also covered by Dixie Chicks on Home).
Impossible Dream is an immaculate album. The songs are wonderful, the playing and production perfect. But what really lifts in into a different stratosphere are Patty’s vocals. She wrings every last ounce of emotion from her songs and it’s a joy to hear. As it says on her website, this isn’t ear candy. It’s soul food.