Since first embarking on a music career way back in 1992, Patty Griffin could be considered somewhat an American institution. Her music has become so loved and renowned over the years that it has resulted in numerous covers by a great many artists – including multiple culprits, the Dixie Chicks – as well as earning her a Grammy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this review was to discuss a brand new album, but it is not, for the album in question – Silver Bell – is in fact her third album, and – most importantly – one that almost got lost in they abyss of space and time.
If you were to take to Wikipedia, the mine of (un)reliable information, you would find sparse reference to Silver Bell, for despite originally being recorded in 2000, it was never released due to her record company of the time, A&M, going through a change of ownership. Having previously being circulated as a bootleg album, it is only now just being released, 13 years later.
Taking all of this history into account, it is no wonder that the album manages to feel – whilst not necessarily dated – definitely nostalgic. Opening track, Little God, begins with a foreboding intro and progresses to create an intoxicating atmosphere that manages to be surprisingly reminiscent of ’90’s trip-hop trio Sneaker Pimps. Truth #2 is more along the lines of what is conventionally expected of Griffin, it being a rather country sounding affair, whilst things suddenly get rockier with Boston, a song that channels ’90’s radio rock and Griffin’s memories of her previous home. There are a number of songs in vein, most notably the title track Silver Bell, it being gruffer than the rest of the songs in question, with Griffin referencing her more rebellious side in the lyrics ‘How you been? I’m doing well. I hear you’re digging a hole to hell… I hate to tell you baby, this is home’.
Griffin’s voice also makes for a rather alluring sound, with songs such as Perfect White Girls and Sooner Or Later being rather seductive, and the huskiness of Griffin’s voice definitely comes through when she pushes the notes that little bit more. Sorry and Sad is nicely rhythmic, if a little repetitive sounding, whilst the sultry Driving incorporates a drum machine and touches of jazz to create a deliciously murky sound. Never fear, however, there are bunch of lovingly crafted slowies on offer too, most notably the delicate Top Of The World and the piano led Mother Of God, where Griffin talks of the experiences of her youth and her feelings towards her inevitable ageing. It is beautifully and hauntingly crafted, and is genuinely moving, managing to be both sad yet comforting at the same time.
It is clear that Patty Griffin is a true songstress, one to be celebrated for her musicianship, her voice and especially her songwriting. For an album that manages to be surprisingly eclectic in sound, a factor which is echoed by Griffin’s delivery, the one thing that holds it all down and ties it all together is her knack for crafting beautiful lyrics to her songs, something that very often cannot be learned, no matter how much a person practices. Griffin hold poetry in her soul, and like many others within her genre, her music creates an emotive ambiance with every listen.
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