Patty Griffin purchased her first guitar for $50 when she was 16 years old. It wasn’t until her marriage crumbled in the early ’90s that, with a new interest in songwriting, she began performing in Boston’s coffeehouse scene. This path would lead her to becoming a Grammy-winning musician and perhaps one of the most respected folk singer-songwriters of the 21st century.
Since her commercial debut in 1996, Griffin has released 10 albums — with her most recent self-titled, Patty Griffin, in March of this year. She’s been nominated for six Grammys, winning one: Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2010.
One of the artist’s qualities is her tender, unpretentious insights into the often turbulent personal lives of everyday people. With her soulful performing style and ethereal curls, Griffin can easily turn experiences such as parting ways with a lover (“Let Him Fly”) or struggling with the worries of motherhood (“Mama’s Worried”) into poignant folk stories.
The New York Times hailed Griffin for writing “cameo-carved songs that create complete emotional portraits of specific people.…(her) songs have independent lives that continue in your head when the music ends.”
Shortly after she started writing Patty Griffin, she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. With treatments affecting her singing voice, she set to work on a deeply personal meditation on mortality and the state of America today. The result is a 13-song album that blends her traditional Americana sound with an experimental blend of gospel, Celtic and more.
“I felt like I still needed to write, and I had to figure out ways to write around [treatments],” she said in an interview with Cowboys & Indians magazine.“I just didn’t have my full tool kit, so it’s a more vulnerable place to come from. And it’s actually, ultimately, really good for me to write from that way.”
The album received strong reviews upon its release, with Cowboys & Indians magazine describing Patty Griffin as “deeply personal and penetrating, shining with intricacies of songwriting and honest reflections of human emotion, struggle and triumph.”
“I hope it makes people happy, but it’s not party animal music,” she told Entertainment Weekly in March. “I think it makes people happy-sad, actually: but, to me, that is my personal favorite happy.”
Patty Griffin will perform Friday, Sept. 27, at 6:15 p.m. on the Great Southern Bank Stage.