Two Voices That Command Attention
By Mike Marrone
Children Running Through
In my six years at xm Satellite Radio (XMSR ), I have been involved in numerous live sessions. Each time, I asked the artist to do a recorded introduction of his or her favorite songwriters and singers for future use. More pieces of audio at my channel are labeled "Introducing Patty Griffin" than "Introducing [Anyone Else]." I think Steve Earle said it best on a fan Web site, pattygriffin.net: "I suspect Patty Griffin's songs make most people a little uncomfortable--like they've just walked in on a private moment in someone else's life and they know they should turn around and tiptoe away, but they can't. They make me jealous."
Children Running Through is Patty's fifth studio album release since her striking 1996 debut, Living With Ghosts. Although Patty has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, her name is still not widely known to the general public. But most people have certainly heard a few of her songs. The Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Bette Midler, and Emmylou Harris (who guests on this release) have all recorded versions of her material. Her music has also been used in television and film, including Cameron Crowe's 2005 film, Elizabethtown.
Whenever my father caught Ella Fitzgerald on television he would say: "I would pay money just to listen to her sing the phone book." I feel that way about Patty Griffin. Her voice is like a hurricane wrapped in velvet. From the sassy and subtle funk of Stay on the Ride on the new album to the stark, heartfelt drama of Burgundy Shoes and the delicate beauty of Railroad Wings, her phrasing and command leave you holding your breath at the end of the song, whether she is belting it out or whispering in your ear.
Patty co-produced Children Running Through with Mike McCarthy. In addition to Emmylou, former Faces piano player Ian McLagan sits in on two highlights: the first single, Heavenly Day, and gospel-tinged Up to the Mountain (MLK Song), inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech. If you have never heard Patty Griffin sing her songs, don't wait any longer. This just might be her finest work to date.
TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD Melody Gardot came to my attention through her work with Phil Roy (BW--Nov. 20). Falling somewhere between jazz and blues in a place where Billie Holiday meets Tom Waits, she also has moments that recall pieces of Nina Simone, early Rickie Lee Jones, and even the sophistication of Cole Porter. Only two years removed from a devastating traffic accident (her bicycle was hit by a car) that has left her in need a of a cane and dark glasses, Melody has channeled her recovery into a remarkably mature recording, Worrisome Heart. Songs such as Quiet Fire, All That I Need Is Love, Love Me Like a River Does, and the title track have been causing our request lines to swell, and there are plenty more highlights on the set. Go to melodygardot.com for music and video samples, as well as the full story of this promising new artist.
Mike Marrone is program director of XM Satellite Radio's The Loft, a channel that focuses on an eclectic mix of singer-songwriters from the 1960s through the present.