upper room daily devotions

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Review of Patty Griffin's "Downtown Church"

Recorded in an historic Presbyterian church in Nashville, Patty Griffin's seventh album "Downtown Church" is the slow ambling trek of a soul's journey. Mostly referred to as a folk singer, in this outing Patty slides into a soulfulness that one genre can't quite contain. It's just plain ol' good music. While she partners with Emmilou Harris ("Little Fire"), Regina McCray, Mike Farris, Buddy Miller and others, this album belongs all to Patty Griffin.

Of the fourteen tracks, I especially enjoyed "House of Gold," "Death's Got a Warrant" (with Ann and Regina McCray), "I Smell a Rat," and her stripped down, somber, and pure version of "All Creatures of our God and King."

In various interviews, Patty has said that throughout the making of this album she was working out her own faith, and her journey can be felt more than heard. It's not the most technically perfect album, but it is an honest one. And honest music is hard to find.

"Christian music" and "gospel music" are big industries. And, like all big industries, there is a great deal of redundant and derivative work churned out for the sake of a paycheck. That is not the case with "Downtown Church." The selections are perfect for Patty; they are substantive; they are varied; and, I found them meaningful for me. Not once did this progressive feminist queer Christian cringe at theology, language, or substance. And yet, I think that the most conservative person I know would acknowledge that something holy is happening in this music.

If you like folk/blues/hillbilly/soul/country, then check out Patty's new album. The only song that I found out of place was "Virgen de Guadelupe." This attempt at a cross-cultural experiment fell flat for me and seemd out of place with the rest of the songs, but overall, this is a solid offering in an industry overpopulated with bad theology, overproduction, and derivative sounds.

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