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Number 2 of 2013: And Now for Something Completely Different
Lovely as stained glass: Patty Griffin's voice is nothing short of beautiful.
You know us: sometimes we jostle around the numbers and fudge them in all kinds of ways. Well, we couldn't feel good about ourselves if we gave Beware of Darkness (a 4.5/5) a higher slot than Patty Griffin's American Kid, which is just so replete with beautiful, home-spun harmonies (with Robert Plant no less) and dinner-evening storytelling that it would be criminal to go just by the numbers. Besides, maybe we could've gone a little higher on American Kid - an homage to her late Irish father - but better late than never. On her seventh album she is laid-back, gorgeous, a total mother-folker of the highest proportions; achingly sentimental on a retake of "That Kind of Lonely," and restrained on the absolutely brilliantly-written "Ohio" with said Plant. Griffin has many strengths, but here, the key word perhaps is that one, "restrained": she knows that good folk is done in breaths and meaning, not in power vocals or technical flourishes. Which is unusual for a performer with a voice like Griffin's: we had the grace of catching her on tour, and the woman has indeed got pipes - serious pipes. It's her emoting and gut that guides these songs through, that and an underlying sense of joy, too, and the combination renders us speechless. Add to that another album released in 2013, the fantastic and previously unreleased Silver Bell, and we just found a new musician to hunt after. For the folked at heart, earnest and stunning, and a necessary album of 2013.