Wednesday, January 5, 2011


There's not a lot of gospel music in my collection, but when I find something (or someone) I like, I really like it (or them).  My second favorite album of 2010 was Mavis Staples' You Are Not Alone, and another album that almost made my top 10 was Patty Griffin's Downtown Church.

Patty actually is already in my top 10, as she sings on Robert Plant's Band Of Joy album (and she's also in his touring band). And like Band Of Joy, Downtown Church was produced by the great Buddy Miller.

Like Buddy, Patty is part of the sort of "parallel" Nashville scene (I don't really want to use the "a-word"). Artists like Lucinda, Emmylou, Earle and Miller, who are surely country and yet are ignored by the country music establishment. This album is more gospel based than most of her albums, and in fact was recorded in a church in downtown Nashville.

There are a few guests here: both Millers (Buddy and his equally talented wife, Julie Miller),  Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin all pitch in, but it's Patty's show.   It's a combination of originals and covers, including Hank Williams' "House Of Gold" (which Willie Nelson also covered on his new album, Country Music), and traditional songs like "Death's Got A Warrant" and "If I Had My Way." Yes, these songs have been done before.  But to my ears, they haven't been overdone, and in fact, I think that Patty does a service by keeping them alive for a new audience to hear. Beyond that, she makes them her own.  She has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard, she can sing the phone book and I'd probably like it. But singing these incredible songs of faith and love... it actually is "divine."

No comments: