Album Review: Patty Griffin — American Kid

Juli Thanki | May 6th, 2013

pattygriffinamericankidInspired in part by her late father, who was a teacher, World War II veteran, and the son of Irish immigrants, Patty Griffin’s American Kid–her first album of original music in six years as well as her debut on New West Records—is one of the most gorgeous collections of music we’re likely to hear all year. Simultaneously an album of mourning and a celebration of life, American Kid  portrays the ache of loss with heartrending clarity while finding moments of comfort in old memories (“Irish Boy”) and spirituality (album opener “Go Wherever You Wanna Go”).

Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) give “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida” a gritty, bluesy edge with their “can-jo” (a homemade banjo made out of a coffee can) and percussion, respectively, while Robert Plant contributes haunting harmonies to “Ohio.” The album’s only cover, Lefty Frizzell’s tender “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” is a highlight, with only guitar and mandolin accompanying Griffin’s poignant vocal. “Waltz” also a fine companion to Frizzell’s “I Want to Be with You Always,” which Griffin sang with Buddy Miller on his 2011 project, The Majestic Silver Strings.

“Get Ready, Marie,” with its barroom piano and drunken chorus telling the tale of a tipsy groom shambling down the aisle on his wedding day, is a charming and much-needed moment of levity, as it leads into “Not a Bad Man,” a song delivered from the point of view of a soldier who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder: “I bet you see a stranger when you look at me/When I look in the mirror, I know that’s what I see.”

Griffin is one of the most talented songwriters in contemporary folk music, leading artists like Emmylou Harris and The Dixie Chicks to cover her work over the years. American Kid features multiple songs that stand among her best work yet, especially closing track “Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone.” “Now the secrets you keep will be the things I’ll never know,” she sings over Craig Ross’ Omnichord. It’s a sentiment familiar to any person who’s ever mourned a loved one and grieved the loss not only of what was, but what could have been. Superbly written and beautifully sung, “Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone”–and the entirety of American Kid — is so personal, so revealing, that it is occasionally painful to hear. But as easily as Griffin’s music wounds, it also heals.

4.5 Stars

Preorder American Kid

  1. Ben Foster
    May 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Wow! That’s quite a recommendation. I really can’t wait to hear this record now.

  2. Jack Williams
    May 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve pre-ordered this as I’ve been jonesing for a full album of Patty Griffin originals. Six years is a long time (her gospel album from 2010 was a great one, though). Great to read a rave review from a trusted source.

    Got my tickets to see her at the Birchmere on 6/3.

    • Juli Thanki
      May 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      Ooh, I’ve gotta get those tickets too. It’ll be a good week for music, with Griffin doing a two-day run at the Birchmere and Zoe Muth playing Iota on the fourth.

  3. Arlene
    May 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    If you’re in NYC at the time, you might want to attend the FREE Patty Griffin outdoor concert on June 5th in the Prospect Park Bandshell to kick off the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival…. (Heh, heh.)

  4. Leeann Ward
    May 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Patty will be performing just an hour away from me on June 8. There’s no question that I need to be there. I can’t wait for this album.

  5. Janice Brooks
    May 7, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Also this week “All About the Music” Jamie Richards

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