For all the bemoaning that goes on about the state of the music industry, Patty Griffin’s story suggests the shakeup doesn’t stop those who are truly determined. After a brief marriage ended in divorce, Griffin began playing coffee shops in the early ’90s and was quickly scouted by the now-defunct label A&M Records. Though she put together a whole record of polished studio takes, the executives eventually opted to release Griffin’s unvarnished demo tape as-is. Those demos became her debut album, 1996’s well-received Living With Ghosts, followed by 1998’s rock-centric Flaming Red. But her third album, 2000’s Silver Bell (which was recorded with Daniel Lanois at New Orleans’ Kingsway Studio) was lost in the dissolution of A&M. It would remain unreleased for 13 years. Luckily, the collapse of a major label didn’t lead to a collapse of Griffin’s prolific output.
Instead, she was scooped up by the fiercely independent and country-focused ATO Records and proceeded to put out two more studio albums and two live ones. It wasn’t until 2007, though, that she really hit her stride — during her mid-forties no less — with Children Running Through. That album earned Griffin her first Grammy nominations, the Americana Music Association’s “Artist of the Year” award, and her highest spot on the charts. Her next record continued the momentum; 2010’s Downtown Church was a live recording of gospel traditionals (and three original tracks) put out a Christian-leaning label that won Griffin her first Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album.
Throughout her career, supporters like Emmylou Harris, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, and Miranda Lambert have continually championed Griffin’s songs. Over the next three years, Griffin connected with another musically kindred spirit: Robert Plant. The two began a romantic and professional relationship that included a full tour with his new group Band Of Joy. In 2013 she released both the critically-acclaimed American Kid — this one on New West Records — and finally saw Silver Bell’s official release via Universal Music. Those twin releases could’ve been bookends for a career full of twists and turns, but Griffin did not sit back on her heels.
This year Griffin has washed her hands of label politics completely, and will release her tenth album Servant Of Love on her brand new self-owned imprint. Her relationship with Plant is no longer, and some of the gritted-teeth determination and soft regret on her record seems indicative of that loss. When Plant released his own new album last year, NPR’s Ann Powers wondered what Griffin’s answer record would sound like. Today, they’ve premiered the first track off that very album, but “Rider Of Days” has no wounded smoldering and no viper-tongued fury. In place of that, Griffin has crafted a sighing, dreamy track that centers her as the traveler, not the abandoned. Gentle guitars simmer just below Griffin’s authoritative, warm vocals on a song that doesn’t see loss as a dead end, but accepts grief as another stop on a much longer journey. “Rider Of Days” is light, ethereal and hopeful. Nineteen years later, Griffin is still looking toward the future. Listen.
Here’s the full Servant Of Love tracklist:
01 “Servant Of Love”
03 “Good And Gone”
04 “Hurt A Little While”
05 “250,000 Miles”
06 “Made Of The Sun”
07 “Everything’s Changed”
08 “Rider Of Days”
09 “There Isn’t One Way”
10 “Noble Ground”
11 “Snake Charmer”
12 “You Never Asked Me”
13 “Shine A Different Way”
And tour dates:
09/22 Waco, TX @ Common Grounds
09/23 Austin, TX @ Paramount Theater
09/25 Louisville, KY @ Headliners
09/26 Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room at Old National Centre#
09/27 Pittsburgh, PA @ Byham Theater#
09/29 Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
10/01 New York, NY @ Town Hall
10/02 Boston, MA – Somerville Theater
10/03 Orono, ME @ Collins Center#
10/04 Montreal, QUE @ L’Astral
10/06 Northampton, MA @ Academy of Music
10/07 Philadelphia, PA @ Keswick Theater
10/09 Ithaca, NY @ State Theater
10/10 Ann Arbor, MI @ Power Center
10/11 Columbus, OH @ Lincoln Theater
10/13 Chicago, IL @ The Vic
10/14 Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
10/15 Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
10/17 Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
Servant Of Love is out 9/25 via Griffin’s self-owned label imprint in conjunction with Thirty Tigers.