Children Running Through
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2007, Volume 14, #2
Written by John Metzger
Patty Griffin issued her debut (Living with Ghosts) in 1996; since then she’s received a lot of attention from the music industry. Her songs have been covered by everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Jessica Simpson to Emmylou Harris, and she was nominated for a Grammy award for her 2002 endeavor 1000 Kisses. Critics, too, have fawned all over her work, but save for a small but devoted following, she has yet to crack the mainstream market. While her latest outing Children Running Through isn’t likely to leap to the top of Billboard’s sales chart, it is a more accessible collection, largely because Griffin toned down her cerebral inclinations in favor of more perceptibly passionate arrangements. Rather than lowering her remarkably high standards, however, she found a way of glimpsing her compositions from a new perspective. To those who have been paying attention, the effect is rather dramatic.
Instead of focusing upon her complex narratives, Griffin and co-producer Mike McCarthy took a more impressionistic approach, one that does a better job of conveying the fertile emotional content of her material. Forsaking character sketches in favor of snapshots, they placed less emphasis upon the words that Griffin is singing, opting instead to accentuate the manner in which she delivers them. Throughout Children Running Through, her blues-y vocals are placed front and center. They rise and fall in a dynamic fashion, powering the hard-charging, angst-filled determination of Getting Ready; filling with a bittersweet soulfulness the spaces between You’ll Remember’s sparse, rhythmic backing; and bathing the gentle R&B of Heavenly Day in rays of brilliant sunshine. On Trapeze, an early highlight, she is joined by Emmylou Harris, and with their voices intertwined, the duo unlocks the tale’s haunted beauty. Elsewhere, her Bonnie Raitt-style growl is complemented — even spurred — by Stay on the Ride’s atmospheric arrangement of gritty saxophones and urban, street corner percussion, while Someone Else’s Tomorrow finds her captivatingly capturing the passage of time as her voice becomes a beacon of optimism that shines through the surrounding gray of winter.
Unfortunately, Griffin falters slightly during the latter third of Children Running Through. As good as it is, Up to the Mountain (MLK Song) lacks the overwhelming power of the rendition that appeared on Solomon Burke’s Nashville, and as the pace of the outing slows down, the distinctiveness of its tracks begins to dissipate. Regardless, Griffin’s willingness to rearrange her past in order to better position herself for the future is admirable. As it turns out, the payoff is big, and the result is that Children Running Through is the most immediately gratifying (but no less poignant) outing that Patty Griffin has ever made. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box