Patty Griffin is in charge. She’s always been in charge, of course, with that clarion call of hers that cuts through the atmosphere. But at the Paramount on September 23rd, introducing us to her new album, Servant of Love, she was in command of her band, her playing,and her performance in an entirely different way. She confessed once or twice to feeling a bit nervous about playing in her hometown. “I’ve been here in Austin– what, 17,18…almost 20 years and am still nervous?” she said as she slid behind the piano, but it was imperceptible to her audience.
Griffin summoned the lineage of folk tales and bluegrass and gospel, and, standing in the center in her patterned suit, evoked the possibility that maybe what we were witnessing was a revival sermon on love and mystery. Every song seemed to stir the spirits of musicians past and present, including within the audience. Maybe this noticeable power is the result of releasing this album on her new, self-owned imprint in conjunction with Thirty Tigers.
Flanked by powerhouse musicians David Pulkingham, Billy Harvey, and Conrad Couchon (who played at least three instruments by my count), Griffin invited Ephraim Owens, Scrappy Jud Newcomb and Craig Ross on stage, creating one of the more expansive moments I’ve experienced in recent times.
Soaked to the bone with the blues and jazz, Servant of Love weaves and spins stories that you can almost see forming in front of you, rising and falling with each start and stop, proving once again that Griffin is a master storyteller.
By Megan Renart