Album Review

Patty Griffin, 'Downtown Church'

January 25, 2010

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Patty Griffin has got religion, or at least the urge to sing about it, on her transcendent new gospel record. When she bends her raspy, gale-force voice to the task, it sounds as if she was born to do it. Her efforts are aided by the formidable talents of Buddy Miller, whose footprints are all over the album: He drew on his apparently boundless knowledge of American music to inundate Griffin with possible song choices, he secured the magnificent Downtown Church in Nashville as a recording venue, he played on the record, and he produced it. Griffin draws on her own songwriting strengths for a pair of ballads that deftly combine a gorgeous, doleful sound with sentiments of comfort and hope. She visits country gospel (one of Hank Williams’s sacred songs, “House of Gold,’’ and Alfred Karnes’s “We Will All Be Reunited,’’) and the black gospel tradition (a smoldering, Staple Singers-styled “If I Had My Way’’). And when, accompanied by John Deaderick’s stately piano, she stretches even further on “All Creatures of Our God and King,’’ a hymn built on a text originating with St. Francis of Assisi, she reaches for eternity. (Out tomorrow) STUART MUNRO

Patty Griffin Downtown Church
EMI/Credential Recordings
ESSENTIAL “All Creatures of Our God and King’’