2015 marks an important year for Patty Griffin. Nineteen years after the release of her debut album, she has set up her own imprint label; a huge step in terms of her career, and one she’s well prepared for after nine albums and as she moves onto her tenth. The first release on her own imprint, Servant of Love, is a simple album in a trademark folk and Americana style. There aren’t a lot of instruments put to use here, but the masterful execution with so little is what makes it such a striking release.
Servant of Love takes folk music back to its roots, stripped down to the bare minimum elements. Throughout the album, it’s common for Griffin to only be accompanied by guitars, with percussion barely even taking a supporting role. There Isn’t One Way and Snake Charmer are the only songs to truly feature drums, and they’ve got a straight-forward blues and folk rock sound that stands out on the album because of it.
It’s the moments that make the most out of minimal instruments that really make the album shine. Rider of Days layers multiple tracks of guitar over each other, filling the chorus out with different riffs and melodies, making it powerful in a way that percussion would have effected negatively. Noble Ground is more active in its arrangement, with piano and trumpets working with the guitar to give the song a sultry jazz theme, with the accompanying use of hi-hats being the only percussion in sight.
By using such a minimal selection of instruments in each song, it’s given Servant of Love a level of sincerity that really sells it as a folk record. It’s nothing new for Griffin, but it shows that she’s still got a real talent for her brand of music. Making an engaging album with such sparse, simple songs can be hard to pull off, but Servant of Love more than passes that test.