Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., April 23, 2004
Patty GriffinImpossible Dream (ATO) There's a school of thought that says we're all driven by an unnameable something, a vague but pleasurable psychic tickle. On her latest release, Impossible Dream, Patty Griffin has mastered the art of drawing attention to the nameless, achy yearning inside all of us, swaddling it in anger, desire, sadness, and joy. The album starts out with the knee-slapping, driving "Love Throw a Line," its momentum akin to a train song. From there, Griffin delves into her sometimes bitter, always bewitching narratives, spinning yarns of lonely people on the move, physically and spiritually. "Top of the World" is some of Griffin's best storytelling. It chronicles a husband's lifetime regret as he dies in his easy chair, longing to take death's wings. At the close of the song, an elderly couple duet on the Broadway standard "Impossible Dream," the man's voice abruptly leaving the woman to finish alone. Not too subtle? Perhaps. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. It's "Mother of God" encapsulating that strange something that defines existence, however. The narrator's tired, jaded, but mysteriously hopeful as she sings, "I went to Florida like everyone sick of the cold does. I waited on old people waiting to die. I waited on them until I was." Chilling, but the hope lacing the despair is exactly what constitutes life, and Griffin is an expert at capturing that energy.