Patty Griffin lays herself bare in achingly beautiful meditations on love and all the things that bear on love. Work that is completely fresh and original. Simple songs. Spare, nothing extra, just seamless snapshots of the moments and the feelings that we will all pass through. Lessons we learn, losses we endure, joys we remember. Little raindrops falling on deep waters, rippling forever.
Hailing from Old Town, Maine, the youngest of seven children, Griffin had an early interest in music which she credits to her mother, who sang around the house in a voice like Peggy Lee’s. Patty purchased a fifty-dollar guitar at sixteen, an investment that would pay off, but not for a while.
The breakup of Griffin’s first marriage, in 1992, was the catalyst for positive change and a more ambitious approach to her art. One door closes, another is revealed. Soon she was regularly performing her original songs in Boston coffeehouses. Her first attempt at an album was fraught with problems, but in 1996 she managed to produce a debut album, Living With Ghosts, taken from original demo recordings. Two years later she came out with a follow-up album, Flaming Red, backed by a full band and a real production team, and she was on her way.
Griffiin’s career has been a creative tapestry. To date she has produced nine albums of original work and a few live albums. She has toured solo and with folks like Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (as the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue), as well as icon Robert Plant. She also lends her voice to the recordings of others as a back-up singer.
But Patty’s most important contribution is through her songwriting, which provides a valuable outlet for expression and also helps her process the deep emotions which are the source of the songs. An impressive list of artists have recorded her work, including Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, Harris, Shawn Colvin, Miranda Lambert, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kelly Clarkson, Joan Baez and Martina McBride.
There are many other professional accolades, including two Grammy Awards (seven nominations in all), Album of the Year and Artist of the Year awards from the Americana Music Association (seven nominations in all) and Inspirational Album of the Year from the Dove Awards (two nominations). Last year she launched her own record label, PGM.
Griffin’s voice is stunning instrument, a hide of resolute hope stretched over a skeleton of hard experience. Her songs steer us through familiar places, places of stillness and love and hope as well as places of fear and risk and disappointment. Her performances, particularly when she is alone with a guitar or piano, are profound and captivating. Patty Griffin is one of the most talented songwriters working today. If you don’t know her work, you should.
Three things you should know about Patty Griffin: (1) she was turned down for several commercials, including spots for Diet Coke and Downy, because her voice was just too sad, (2) she has collaborated, musically and romantically, with Robert Plant, and (3) she once worked as a waitress.