Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin isn’t an artist blessed with the huge fame of her counterparts at the more commercial end of the country-rock business, but rather enough of an intriguing and honest success to allow for a packed-out City Halls here and an atmosphere in which her songs were given due space to let their outstanding lyricism pierce the air.
Patty Griffin | City Halls, Glasgow | Rating ****
Amongst other subjects, one she writes about is racism; about police shootings on her ninth and latest album Servant of Love and with understated tension about the Underground Railroad which shipped slaves to freedom on Ohio.
She’s a musician of conscience, whose ability to explore the subject of her songs also lends itself to their emotional quality. Playing guitar and singing, Griffin – the former partner of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant – was joined by guitarist David Pulkingham, drummer Conrad Choucroun and multi-instrumentalist Billy Harvey in creating some understated but intricate epics which make the most of the rootsy qualities to her playing and singing.
250,000 Miles was sparse and sun-parched, building through a fierce crescendo before falling back exhausted, while on Death’s Got a Warrant she personalised the sense of encroaching doom by singing it to herself. “Isn’t that the sweetest little ditty?” she asked of its merciless stomp and howl. “I call that a field holler.”
Yet her voice is suited to both a dry murmur and a kind, open-hearted country song. New track Shine a Different Way was hopeful and uplifting, its sense of gospel religiosity echoed by a later, piano-backed take on the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King. “I’m an Irish Catholic French-Canadian from Maine,” she laughed, “why not?” She closed with Heavenly Day, her one true love song – about her dog, apparently – having traced both extremes of the human spirit.