American Music

Patty Griffin

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am

Patty Griffin
Downtown Church
(Credential Recordings)

Patty Griffin's high-pitched, assured, melancholic voice has enabled her to traverse folk, pop and country genres over seven albums. Now 44, she answers her own questions about religion by recording a set of gospel songs at the 160-year-old Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Fortunately, this is the kind of music that even atheists can enjoy. It may sound heavenly, but the choice of songs (I Smell a Rat, for example) leans more towards Americana than cathedrals.

Recorded over just five days, Griffin opens with a haunting version of Hank Williams' House of Gold before traversing many styles of what's considered gospel. One of the best is the powerful anthem, Death's Got a Warrant, which sounds like Griffin is sat alongside a chain gang in 90-degree heat.

Still, with many collaborators, including Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris, the album flows beautifully. So much so, that when Griffin unleashes two originals, they feel right at home.