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Music review Patty Griffin, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Impressive songs, old and new, from an accomplished interpreter of folk and Americana

PATTY GRIFFIN is an impressive personality.

Emotional but measured in her musical and vocal criticisms of the contemporary US, she’s thoughtful on any range of subjects, from the post-industrial travails of her home town in Maine to the admission that although she’s always loved Billie Holiday, she’s rarely been able to listen to her music because it ventures into such sad places.

There’s an underlying blueness, too, about Griffin’s songs, emphasised by the subtly discordant elements in her voice. But while she can bring you down, she can just as easily raise you up with her inspiring messages.

Working in perfect harmony with a two-man band of David Pulkingham on guitar and piano and Conrad Choucroun multi-tasking on a selection of instruments, Griffin begins with three songs from her high-quality, eponymous new album — Mamma’s Worried, The Wheel and, best-received of the trio, the Boys from Tralee, a driving and upbeat consideration of the upsides of emigration and immigration.

Much of the rest of the set is also taken from that album. River, a heartfelt tribute to the strength of women, Hour Glass, inspired by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and grisly murder ballad Bluebeard are all gobbled up by an adoring full-house audience already familiar with each.

What Now, with its ghostly lyrics contemplating the possibility of impending death, has Griffin bathed in Cressy Klaces’s beautiful and ethereal stage-lighting of blues and purples, catching her extravagantly tousled hair at all angles.

Where I Come From, about her birthplace of Old Town, is pushed forward wonderfully by the freight-train rhythm of Choucroun’s brushes on snare.

Towards the end, there’s older stuff, including When It Don’t Come Easy and Long Ride Home and to finish, one of two encore songs, her most enduring and heartwarming composition Heavenly Day.

It clearly reveals Griffin’s gospelly and bluesy undercurrent. But, at heart, she’s a true American folk singer and a great credit to that noble tradition.  

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