By: Morgan Jones
The thing about Patty Griffin is that her voice isn’t perfect. I would go as far as to say it is an acquired taste, a voice that, even when you’re a fan of some of her songs, has to grow on you over the course of an evening. During her opening number at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre, that was the thing that struck me. I’ve always found her voice to be unique but it was even more unique live and honestly took a little getting used to and I think the biggest thing is you have to realize that Griffin is who she is, she is confident and makes no apologies and that may be the thing that makes her voice so inviting. There are other artists you go see and you’re disappointed when they hit a sour note but it actually seems that imperfection is one thing that makes Patty Griffin endearing.
There are, of course, other things that make Griffin endearing:There’s the twang she speaks with despite being a Maine native (she has earned the right to the drawl after calling Texas home for nearly two decades), her talent for seamlessly weaving together her setlist and the way she tells a story so masterfully both through spoken word and through song.
To me, one of the most intriguing tools of a songwriter is the ability to get inside someone else’s head and so it was interesting to hear the story behind one track on Griffin’s newest album titled, “Had a Good Reason.” She explained that the song was inspired by a dream where Billie Holiday came to her. Griffin subsequently wrote “Had a Good Reason” about Holiday’s growing up with a mostly-absent mother.
Another highlight of the show was a performance of “Where I Come From,” a tribute to her hometown of Old Town, Maine. Griffin explained before the number that Old Town was home to several factories and has in recent years fallen on hard times but that she was “sure they had a plan B just around the corner.” There was something hopeful about the way she expressed this belief that good things were on the way for the place she calls home.
If I had one complaint about the show, it would be Griffin’s choice to sing many songs from her most recent album rather than songs that the audience is more familiar with. Still, during her nearly 2-hour set, Griffin did sing fan favorites including “Let Him Fly,” a cover of the and an encore of what is by far her most popular song (and according to Griffin, the only love song she’s ever written…about her dog), “Heavenly Day.”
Griffin was accompanied for the majority of the set by Conrad Choucroun and David Pulkingham, who each took turns playing multiple instruments and on several songs stole the show with their incredible talents. The Egyptian, where Griffin will perform again on Thursday and Friday (which she said reminds her of classic singers taking up residence), is a fun venue that has an old-timey feel but adequate sound and acoustics. One word of caution: Attendees will have to endure a 10-minute welcome by an Egyptian Theater employee who provided a lengthy update on Park City’s alcohol laws and a plea for donations.
After the show, I couldn’t stop thinking about Patty Griffin. Yes, every note isn’t totally perfect. But here’s the thing, Patty is confident in her voice and she owns it…so much so that she has made a (Grammy-award winning) career out of it. The imperfection makes Patty endearing and I think the same is true of us. It is when we embrace our imperfections and our individual voices that we become our truest selves and there is something really inviting about that, something that gives others permission to be their authentic selves too. It is in this space that, I believe, we find the most genuine connection with those around us. And sure, there will be some people who may not appreciate your unique voice right off the bat, but over time they will appreciate the consistency-that you are who you are. They will love you for it. So be like Patty, sing-or speak-and, even when your voice feels imperfect, own it.
Patty Griffin has two remaining shows this week in Park City at the Egyptian Theater. To purchase tickets to the June 20 or June 21 go to www.egyptiantheatercompany.org