The Austin Chronicle

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Abby Johnston, October 23, 2015, Music

Since her 1996 bow Living With Ghosts, Patty Griffin has codified a beloved corner of Americana. Beginning with jazz-brushed piano on its opening title track, the longtime local's ninth studio disc deliberately departs from the home-and-hearth warmth of 2013 fan fave American Kid, however. Servant of Love is anything but standard. Griffin deftly experiments with Arabic-style guitar-picking and eerie, chanting vocals on the stark and political "Good and Gone," which was inspired by a 2014 police shooting. The pulsations of "Everything's Changed" build on a circular guitar riff base, kalimba percussion, and mystical moans that would make fellow local Bill Callahan jealous. Not that Griffin's gone full-tilt experimental. The layered guitar picking on "Made of Sun," a delicate ode to a winter's day, evokes a folk nostalgia palpable enough to dispatch listeners north in search of similar clarity. And if Griffin meant Servant of Love as a bold departure, she closes it with a return to roots in the mandolin-driven "Shine a Different Way," perhaps the only song here that could've dropped neatly somewhere else in her distinguished discography.


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