The luminous Patty Griffin brought her shimmering voice to Seattle’s Neptune Theatre last week, touring her long-awaited American Kid, a record dedicated to her late father that’s both elegiac and peppered with boot-kicking attitude. In a show that alternated between soaring, heartbreaking ballads and gritty, soulful folk songs, Griffin held the packed house rapturous, the silence only broken by thunderous applause between songs that seemed to take the singer aback a little. The reaction was deserved; American Kid is a tremendously moving album—up there with Griffin’s best—and the new songs felt like instant classics performed alongside older Griffin favorites like “Nobody’s Crying” and “Chief.”
Flanked by the enormously talented David Pulkingham on guitar (those solos!) and co-producer Craig Ross on bass, with John Dedrick on piano, Griffin’s hour and a half set was the kind of thing you just want to get lost in. It’s no knock on the band’s engaging, tight performances to say that Griffin effortlessly, gorgeously singing “Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone” or “Wild Old Dog” made me want to lay back, eyes closed, and just soak in the loveliness.
Not that everything was purely mellow delight. “Standing” showcased Griffin’s soulful swagger, underpinned by responsive background harmonies. “Get Ready Marie” playfully embellished one of those oft-repeated family stories that get passed down over time. The propulsive “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida” possesses probably the closest thing to a sneer in any Patty Griffin tune, and when the brashness comes out in her voice, well, that’s a very good thing.
It’s almost not fair how ridiculously talented Griffin is—if a person had either her songwriting abilities or preternaturally stunning voice, he or she would be hailed as a musical phenomenon. She’s got it all—oh, and go ahead and add dynamic live performer to that list.