Patty Griffin bookends her seventh album “American Kid” with two songs about the death of her father, opening with the wistful, spiritually open-hearted :Go Wherever You Wanna Go.” The song features a series of poetic images conveying to a loved one that it’s OK to let go and pass to the other side. She closes with the sweetly mournful “Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone,” which blends old jazz chords set against a background of haunting, sustained keyboards.
Typical of Griffin’s artful and searching work, she eschews autobiographical narratives for oblique references to nature and the joy, pain and transcendent values of everyday life, all delivered with her powerful, subtly emotional voice. “American Kid” is unlike Griffin’s past work. She’s not prone to repeating herself and this is another gem in her catalog.
She’s backed for much of the album by Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, a group that opened for Robert Plant’s Band of Joy that included Griffin as a member. Plant’s taste for modal folk music can be heard on “Ohio,” on which he harmonizes with her. But “American Kid” is wholly Griffin’s -- a poignant collection that probes personal and spiritual issues about the most important aspects of life.
George Strait still cruisin’ in the studio
“Love Is Everything”
George Strait is amid a two-year tour before retiring from the road, but new album “Love Is Everything” proves he still has plenty of great new country music in him.
As usual, he proves he can stay contemporary, nicely handling the modern romantic ballad “I Believe,” with its orchestrations and organ accents, and the tricky melody of “Give It All We Got Tonight,” his current hit.
For all his modern moves, it’s on the more traditional cuts that Strait excels, directly contradicting all the current Music Row trends. The steel-guitar-drenched “Blue Melodies” and the delightfully fiddle-driven “I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing” are reminders of how outstanding Strait is at classic country.
The album’s only misstep arrives with “Got A Car,” a first-person story of young love that would have been better left to a more age-appropriate vocalist.
For the most part, the best of “Love Is Everything” would have stood out on any of his albums in the last 32 years. Which means this veteran may hang up his traveling boots, but his consistency as a recording artist isn’t slowing down.
Trace Adkins looks for spark on new album
Trace Adkins works with five different producers on his 11th album, suggesting the country music veteran and reality TV star is searching for an infusion of fresh energy.
And “Love Will” does find Adkins occasionally trying out new sounds. There’s the soul-country vibe of “So What If I Do,” which features a saxophone to play up the pop-crossover possibilities. And there’s a duet with pop singer Colbie Caillat on “Watch The World End,” a strange love song set during the apocalypse.
While the arrangements test new territory, the themes tend toward the middle-of-the-road romanticism he’s stuck with for two decades. Eschewing any up-tempo rockers, the tall, muscular former oil rigger concentrates on romantic themes, some of which push at the steamier edges of conservative country music conventions -- as on his cover of the Exile pop hit “Kiss You All Over.”
For such a roughneck guy, he excels at tender ballads, as on “Come See Me” and the spiritually oriented title song, which features the Harlem Gospel Choir. But there’s nothing here likely to lift him to the upper tier of country stars -- which seems like a missed opportunity, considering the high media profile his role on TV’s “Celebrity Apprentice” has given him.