American Kid (New West)
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., May 17, 2013
Patty GriffinAmerican Kid (New West)
When loss fuels an album, it can play like an open wound. Tender, reflective, and poignant, Patty Griffin's seventh LP, American Kid, honors her late father Lawrence Griffin, a World War II veteran and high school teacher. The ultimate labor of love, its folk blues offers a deeply moving eulogy. While autobiographical work can certainly open itself up to vulnerability, that doesn't necessarily correspond to artistic achievement. In the case of the now longtime local songstress, American Kid deals yet another high note in an ever deepening career, but doesn't always offer the same immediate enchantment of some of her other music. The disc begins the same way it ends, with raw songs in different stages of grief. Opening spiritual "Go Wherever You Wanna Go" mixes hyperbolic and quotidian imagery into a peaceful reconciliation with death. Closing the album, "Gonna Miss You When You're Gone" errs toward lament, quietly scripted by Griffin's jazz-lilted vox and ethereal swell of synth sustain. Between those bookends, she drifts through genres and symbolism. "Don't Let Me Die in Florida" picks up the pace early, its acoustic guitar sweating out a swamp-blues riff as insistent and strong as the author's plea for home. Delicate balladry envelopes "Ohio," beautifully harmonized by Austin's favorite lion, Robert Plant. There are points when Kid feels a little boxed; "Mom & Dad's Waltz" plays trite in the indicated time signature, and "Wild Old Dog" delves too far into its God-as-errant-mutt metaphor. Nevertheless, Griffin re-emerges with her best foot forward, sparse folk for the working man ("Faithful Son").