Patty Griffin: Downtown Church

It’s no secret that singer/songwriter Patty Griffin could release an album of turkey calls and I’d be first in line to get a copy. With a voice capable of impressive range and beautiful, emotional tone, Griffin’s work always stands above the rest as an example of elegance and talent. Her latest album, Downtown Church, is no exception. On the “studio” effort (the album was recorded over a 5-day period in Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church), Griffin’s capabilities as a vocalist and, on its original compositions, as a songwriter, are as evident as ever.

An album primarily of traditional gospel songs and covers, Downtown Church is an accumulation of Griffin’s talents put to the tests of time and artistic growth. As any artist worth his/her weight demonstrates, Griffin’s material gets better, more heartfelt and mature with each release. As proven on one of the album’s two original compositions, “Coming Home To Me”, Griffin still possesses the knack for penning a lyrically moving and gorgeous song of loneliness, loss, and hope. Placing such a song in the context of Downtown Church’s religious contemplations, however, adds a more profound, spiritual interpretation.

Always beautifully accompanied on all of her releases, Griffin brought Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Buddy Miller, and others to church while recording the album, and insisted Miller take Producer credit. In the end, Miller does a stand-up job, capturing Griffin’s tenderness, emotion, and connection to the album’s heavy subject matter. Maybe not an album for listeners with a more secular ear (although there are songs that are not hit-you-over-the-head religious), Downtown Church is a refreshing, new direction from the vital folk artist—an accomplished, sophisticated production capable of moving its listener by its merit as an album, as well as by its message for those so inclined.

In A Word: Preach!