A story told through the fictional lens of balladry
On her 10th and self-titled album, singer-songwriter Patty Griffin interweaves emotional depth into narrative song. The eponymous album was recorded at the singer’s home in Austin and produced by Griffin’s longtime musical partner Craig Ross, only enhancing its personal home-grown sound. On the 13 track album, Griffin demonstrates the reach of her songwriting material. Although a self-titled track, Griffin uses an array of subjects for balladry. Her intimate vocalization and acoustic guitar tell an array of stories; from a starving Irish immigrant to contemplation on the state of the world, her emotional artistry has no bounds. Her ability to personify her own message through these narratives in a genuine and elusive way is what sets her apart as one of the great singer-songwriters. The album is obviously about herself and personal experience, but rather the universality and relatability of human emotion.
Patty Griffin inspires pensive thought through purposeful poetry and intimate raw vocals and instrumentation. Griffin’s lyrics are creative and expressive but have just enough narrative bite that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. This effect is only further enhanced by the instrumentation that accompanies her so effortlessly that its presence is felt more than heard. The most incredible part of the album is Griffin’s ability to maintain the facade of simplicity while providing an interior monologue seemingly disguised as typical conversation. The lyrics and music get deeper with every listen, and the inward reflection hidden behind narration shines more apparently through the prose.
Starting with the opening track “Mama’s Worried,” Griffin personifies feeling through musical relation. The track about a Mother carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders starts with a delicate Spanish guitar style melody that persists as an entity against the vocal line. The ever presence of worry in a Mother’s life is embodied in the guitar line that follows ever so slightly behind Griffin’s vocals. It is a subtle but purposeful choice that subconsciously invades the listener’s mind, and enhances the emotional picture of the ballad. Griffin uses this same effect in “Coins,” in which a waitress recalls working for tips of power-hungry men. She sings a tale of specificity that underlies universal injustices with wealth disparity. While the stories of her most personal album are not her own, the truths behind each track are. There is an undeniable emotional connection between humanity that Griffin embodies in the simplicity of musical storytelling.