It’s almost cult-like: those who know and follow the music of Patty Griffin don’t just love her, they LOVE her (and don’t understand how anyone could not). They understand the beauty of Griffin’s writing and the immense depth of her voice.
Her style can best be described as an eclectic blend of folk, blues, and country, with a bit of rock. Griffin seamlessly blends multiple genres in a way that doesn’t feel put-upon or forced. Rather, it feels like it all comes from a very real place.
Yes, it seems that every musician worth knowing “crosses multiple genres” and simply “can’t be limited by labels”. In regards to Griffin and her body of work, it really is true. She touches something intangible with her songwriting and execution that makes the music soar. She is a musician that has something to say, and what she says has the breath of life in it.
Still don’t know who Patty Griffin is? Don’t feel bad or tragically un-hip. You aren’t alone; many other people haven’t heard of her either. Still, you have probably heard her songs in some capacity. Each are so wonderfully crafted, with clear characters and points of view, that they have been covered by higher-profile artists like the Dixie Chicks (“Top of the World”, “Let Him Fly”, and “Mary”, to name a few), Kelly Clarkson, (“Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)”), Emmylou Harris (“One Big Love”), Miranda Lambert (“Getting Ready”), and even Bette Midler (“Moses”). In 2008 she collaborated with indie artist Joshua Radin and provided vocals to the song “You Got Growing Up to Do” on his album, Simple Times. Griffin’s songs are also frequently used to score television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, Bones, and Smallville.
In 2007, the Atlantic Theater Company produced the off-Broadway musical, 10 Million Miles, based on the music of Griffin, written by Keith Bunin. The musical was directed by Michael Mayer and starred Matthew Morrison (yes, THAT Matthew Morrison of Glee fame), Irene Molloy, Mare Winningham, and Skipp Sudduth. You know you have some serious music cred when the people behind the Broadway hit Spring Awakening produce and execute a show that has been built around your musical oeuvre.
Before I leave you fine readers: it blows my mind, given how deeply soulful her voice, that Griffin isn’t a more well-known singer. Her voice is one that is both powerfully present and hauntingly honest, rivaling (and in my humble opinion, besting) the likes of Adele (gasp!) and Duffy (old news?).
Griffin’s debut album, Living With Ghosts was basically a stripped-down, no-fuss version of her demo tape—just a guitar and her voice. Check it out and I dare you to disagree with me. Each song resonates with the voices of characters that have each experienced excruciating moments of loneliness and loss; it’s Griffin’s voice that reminds us that none of them have succumbed to such a finality of soul. In short, the songs are about real people struggling with real conflicts.
Patty Griffin is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter worth knowing as an artist in her own right, not just one made popular by others’ covers of her songs. Listen to some of her albums and, I promise, you will be more than glad that you did.