If one were to go through, or even create, a list of Americana artists that could be considered legends of the genre, it is a certainty that Patty Griffin would be one of the first names rolling over your lips. Since 1992, Griffin has been a staple on the folk/Americana scene when the term "Americana" was being kicked around as a concept. With the recent release of her seventh studio album American Kid (New West), Griffin goes about cemeting her legendary status in the genre. American Kid is her first album of all new material since 2007's Children Running Through. In between, Griffin has toured with Robert Plant as a member of the Band of Joy, and won a Grammy Award in 2011 for her gospel album Downtown Church.
Taking the stage last night at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto as part of her 2013 tour in support of American Kid, Griffin delivered one of the finest performances to ever grace the Danforth stage. A hearty Tuesday night crowd greeted Ms. Griffin and she responded with a powerful rendition of "Carry Me." Backed by a wonderfully talented 3-piece band, they rolled from the slow and vocally powerful "Carry Me" to the uptempo "No Bad News." While Griffin has a sizeable and very impressive catalogue of material to perform and choose from, the show featured many songs from the American Kid album and rightfully so. The selections from this album during the show are some of the strongest, well written songs I have heard in a while.
Revealing the personal nature of her selections from American Kid that were included in the show lent to the intimate nature of the show. The audience was able to get a feel of how deeply personal this album is to Ms. Griffin. "Don't Let Me Die In Florida" was a song inspired by her Northeastern-raised father who much preferred the cold of Maine to the heat and humidity of, well, anywhere else but Maine. "You Don't Have to Work No More" was clearly her protest song regarding a chapter in recent American history that is only now coming to a close.
The most beautiful performance of the night was Patty's rendition of her eponymous song "Mary." Covered by several artists including Beth Neilson Chapman and the Dixie Chicks, it's hard to imagine anyone topping the understated yet vocally powerful performance of the song's creator. Showing off the diversity of herself and her band, Griffin turned her lead guitarist loose on a Latin number where Griffin performed the song entirely in Spanish, while her guitarist showed off his incredible talent playing flamenco-guitar.
Last night Patty Griffin showed the Toronto crowd why she is a trailblazer in folk and Americana music who remains relevant to the genre today. Indeed, Griffin is vital to the Americana scene. A true professional who is gracious to her fans, a gifted songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and powerful vocals that come so naturally to her it will make you watch and listen in awe, Patty Griffin is one of the artists that Americana artists should aspire to follow.
The tour continues on June 13 at the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota; June 15 at the Wilson Theater in Bozeman, Montana; June 18 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia; and June 19 at Nepture in Seattle, Washington.