Newport Folk Festival: Patty Griffin

She’s won a Grammy award, has had her songs covered by Emmylou Harris and Kelly Clarkson, and she sung what was perhaps the most intriguing lyric from day one at Newport: “You could cry or die or just make pies all day.” But while the meaning to her song “Making Pies” can be disputed, it’s clear that the Maine-born musician is a veteran when it comes to writing and performing folk-rock and alt-country tunes.

Patty Griffin was a refreshing act because not only is she one of the artists with a long-running music career, but also because she commanded the audience from the Fort stage by herself, with just her soulful voice and her acoustic guitar– no band to back her up. It was late afternoon when the singer-songwriter’s set began, and she was the first act of the festival to take the largest stage. But while she was dwarfed by the huge empty space of the stage, her voice held more than enough power to establish her presence.

At one point toward the middle of her set, Griffin conceded, “It’s probably time to play you my one and only love song I’ve ever written.” What followed was “Heavenly Day”, a song about her dog named Bean and one of the musician’s best-known tunes.

Immediately following the song about her beloved canine, Griffin sang a song she had written about her father, who had passed away a few years back. The song sounded heartfelt and wistful as she sang, “You don’t ever have to pay the bills no more.” While it’s a heavy subject, Griffin repeats the lines “You can go wherever you want to go” several times in the song, which makes it seem like things aren’t so bad after all.

Between songs, Griffin said she has completed her next album, American Kid, but has not yet set a release date for it. The record will be her eighth studio album and the follow-up to her 2010 release, Downtown Church, her album of gospel songs which was recorded in a church in Nashville.

While she on top of her game in “Flaming Red” with the scorching lyrics “Stupid girl / She was dressed like she deserved everything she got”, her set ended on a sweet note with “I’ll Miss You When You’re Gone”, in which she sings the line “I’ll see you again”. And once her upcoming album eventually drops, maybe she’ll have yet another reason to return to Newport next year, so she can do exactly as she promised.


By Sarah Ruggiero

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