cd Patty Griffin’s versatility and ambition are obvious from the start of Children Running Through, her latest release on Dave Matthews’ brainchild, ATO Records.
The minimal upright bass and drums of “You’ll Remember” give way to the horn-inflected, bluesy “Stay on the Ride,” which tells the tale of an old man’s determined bus trip to “the middle of nowhere.” With “Trapeze,” Griffin eases into a more intimate meditation on falling out of love. The backing vocals of veteran country songstress Emmylou Harris reassure us that, despite the sad tale, Griffin isn’t alone.
Grammy-nominated songwriter Patty Griffin wins big with songs of persistence on Children Running Through. And we all know that winners never quit.
“Getting Ready” continues the biographical turn, but displays Griffin’s fiercer feminine side as she croons that she is “getting ready to let you go” over jangling guitars and pounding drums. The upbeat-but-laid-back “Burgundy Shoes,” “Heavenly Day” and “Railroad Wings” give the album a calm and steady center of gravity. Griffin turns the accumulated positive energy into determination with “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” and “I Don’t Ever Give Up,” which both reach full effect with the help of subtle string accompaniment.
“Someone Else’s Tomorrow” revisits the theme of the inevitable passage of time. A sentimental, solo piano backs Griffin’s voice as she describes how memories disappear like “tiny ships on the water/smaller and smaller, floating away.” “Crying Over” concludes the album by reaffirming Griffin’s “don’t give up” answer to loss and transience: She knows that she will get “back in the saddle again and again.”
Through her songs, Griffin simultaneously lays out her fears and neutralizes them. In “Trapeze,” Patty and Emmylou sing that “Some people want to know what it feels like to fly/Some people just gather their courage and they give it a try.” After years of attention from established voices (artists from Solomon Burke to Bette Midler have recorded her songs), Children Running Through shows that Griffin herself is ready to take a chance at flight.