Sunday, September 6, 2009

Poverty: Poor Man's House

Patty Griffin: Poor Man's House


The first folk album I truly fell in love with was Patty Griffin's rough-hewn, living-room recorded 1996 debut Living with Ghosts, a gift from my father and folkmentor in troubled times. I was back in college again, newly married, desperately in need of music as an emotional outlet but too broke to afford CDs, and from the very first note, I treasured that album like nobody's business.

This song, which appears alongside the equally powerful track Forgiveness, provides an aching centerpiece of despair to a haunting album. The rise and fall of its dustbowl strum and wail, delivered on the low, shaky end of Patty's breathy, slightly twanged vocal range, speaks of growing up as a child of the exhausted and sorrowful poor in ways that - although devoid of hope in the moment - still manage to anticipate the life of inner strength which will ultimately come to those who survive it.

The exceptionally well-grounded emotion of Living With Ghosts would set the stage for a long and happily still-growing career as a songwriter's songwriter, equally adept at loss and longing, hope and hopelessness, resigned determination and anger, celebrated in Americana and folk circles for an unparalleled sensitivity to the ways in which raw, intimate music and a confessional narrative can best reach a listener's heart. But I always return to this, her first, when I am in need. Thanks, Patty, for helping me find myself in the dark hours.

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