I spent most of this afternoon streaming the full new album from Patty Griffin, one I’ve been waiting to hear since I sat in the very sanctuary where it all happened. Downtown Church was recorded in one of the oldest churches in Nashville that once housed wounded Civil War soldiers amidst its Egyptian-themed murals and columns. I accompanied my friend there for her regular Sunday service when I was visiting in December, and was thrilled when the kids’ Sunday school teacher mentioned to me that Patty had recorded a full album there at the beginning of last year. The presence of the room is amazing, and I could picture Patty belting from the pulpit.
This is a full-on gospel album, with songs written and influenced by folks as varied as Hank Williams, Big Mama Thornton, and Bob Dylan. It’s produced by Buddy Miller, and the formidable Emmylou Harris loans her vocals, as well as “gospel royalty” like Regina and Ann McCrary. There were tinges of this warming, soulful authenticity on songs like the incredible “Mary” (in ’98) or cuts like “Up To The Mountain (MLK song)” from 2007′s Children Running Through. But this one lays down the folded-paper fans and Sunday dress hats, and just lets it go.
This song knocked the breath out of me the first time I heard it today, and sent all kinds of tingles up and down my spine. I closed my office door immediately and turned it way up, mesmerized. It starts humble, but it’s hard not to be moved by the end — the ache and the grief and the longing in her voice speaks as clearly as any of the words she is singing.
I also first thought she was singing, “I am waiting, waiting, for my time to come,” and to some degree, maybe we all are waiting for something. Waiting for someone to return, waiting for a clear path, waiting for a soulmate or a child or some inspiration.
This is a song for that.
Waiting For My Child To Come – Patty Griffin
Patty recorded a version of this song with Mavis Staples for the Oh Happy Daycompilation earlier this year, but this new version is even more solemn, more soulful, more absolutely convincing.
When Miller spoke of the genesis of this album concept, he stated that Patty “seemed to feel this would be good for her heart, too.” Yes.
“One of the first things she said was she wanted a room where she could kind of feel her voice coming back to her,” Miller says. “And my place doesn’t necessarily fall in that category. So I thought of this downtown Presbyterian church. I’d just done a couple songs as part of a benefit there. It’s the wildest looking thing, and it sounded beautiful. So I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask.”
And after you finish listening to this, try segueing seamlessly into Joshua James’ “Cold War” in all its boot-stomping gospel goodness, and be sated completely. Perfect.