December 4, 2012

i pretend to be sleeping / when you come in in the morning

Certain songs just have the power with me, through a very simple and unadorned turn of words, to evoke a perfect whole sadness. I don’t recommend playing this contest at home, but in this ongoing tally-game I have running in my head, one of the very saddest songs I know is “Top of the World” by Patty Griffin. It’s the first song of hers that I ever heard (due to a long-running college flirtation with the Dixie Chicks), and it was a gut-punch from first listen.

I hear it as a story of an emotionally-distant man who is looking back at his life and grieving the ways he hurt those who loved him (“think I broke the wings off that little songbird…”). Something in the line, “I pretend to be sleeping / when you come in in the morning / to whisper goodbye, go to work in the rain, I don’t know why, don’t know why….” makes me live for a solid moment inside that grey early morning light and hear the rain fall on the eaves, and feel like not moving from under the covers, and not knowing why I am avoiding those who love me. Lines like that are part of what make Patty Griffin one of my very favorite songwriters.

Top Of The World – Patty Griffin

This Saturday (December 8), Patty Griffin is headlining Denver’s RootsFest (with support by Todd Snider) to benefit Swallow Hill Music, and Fuel/Friends is thrilled to be one of the presenters! Patty is an incredible, heritage-of-American-music artist, and I cannot wait to see her for a complete live set. Todd Snider opens; I once listened to some of his songs on the long road to Marfa, TX, on the way home from SXSW. Seemed perfect.

WIN TICKETS! I have two pairs of tickets to RootsFest this Saturday give away to readers – please leave me a comment to enter. I am still familiarizing myself with Patty’s vast and wonderful body of work over the years (there is a lot), so feel free to tell me what your favorite song from her is, and why.

I’ll pick winners on Thursday, and encourage everyone else to get their tickets in advance. As part of Swallow Hill’s rad commitment to music education (really, they are doing some of my favorite stuff in Colorado), they are also offering a class on Saturday led by local roots musicians Martin Gilmore and Patrick Dethlefs, focusing on the songwriting aspects of roots music. Each musician will include a performance aspect of their classes, playing songs and then answering questions, and giving explanations of writing techniques, tips and pointers. The workshop is FREE with your ticket to RootsFest.

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  • I had/have a long lasting obsession with the Dixie Chicks as well, and have loved this song. I heard Patty’s version on Pandora a while back. xoxo

    Deanna Newton — December 4, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  • I too am just getting into listening to Patty Griffin — would love the chance to hear her live. “Love Throw a Line” has been a must for all my road trip playlists, ever since picking it up as an impulse purchase on a homesick winter day in Spokane. To me, it’s always sounded like heading out of town toward something better.

    Claire S. — December 4, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  • AH! I so agree with your “Top of the World” assessment. For me it was “Let Him Fly,” which I discovered on a mix tape post-Lileth Fair back in high school. That song took on new meaning when I walked away from a long-term relationship and most of my community midway through my 20s. Patty has the gift of cutting you to the core when it really needs to be done and then walking with you as you heal. I would also love to see a full live set of hers — I was so disappointed to see her relegated to the ensemble at Telluride 2011. I don’t care that you’re Robert Plant. Patty Griffin is not a backup singer!

    Kate — December 4, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

  • As a young 20-something, I discovered Patty Griffin during my first heartache. My mother, an amazing woman who had married her high school sweetheart was at a loss for words. She had never experienced heartache, so instead, she gave me some of Patty’s albums to listen to for comfort and advice. It worked, and to this day, I listen to the following tracks:

    Rain (a fantastic track to cry to)
    Let Him Fly (reassurance that you’ll find someone better)
    Time Will Do The Talking (you’ll feel better, it just takes time)

    Listen to the three tracks in order, and you’ll see what I mean. An introduction to Patty Griffin was the best gift a girl could ever receive!

    Michelle H. — December 4, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  • There are too many to name! Making Pies, Tony, Long Ride Home. Also be sure to track down her unreleased album, Silver Bell.

    Karen — December 4, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  • My favorite Patty song is Long Ride Home from Kiss in Time… it graces most of my road trips.

    Sarah — December 4, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

  • She has a ton of songs that are just gut wrenchers. They serve their purpose. She also has some soul lifters. Two of my very favorite songs: ‘No Bad News’ and ‘One Big Love’. Listen and feel better…

    jon — December 4, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  • Gosh, so many to choose from but off the top of my head it would have to be either making Pies or Sweet Lorraine

    Steve M. — December 4, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  • When you have kiddos, you very rarely can take a minute away to enjoy your favorite things about your significant other including shared music!
    There are too many great lyrics to count in Pattys songs!
    Help us to share amazing music and a stolen kiss!

    Mia Allen — December 5, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  • That voice… She could sing anything and make me bawl. In many ways, my “favorite” song is whichever one I happen to have on at the time.

    But more often than not, that song is Florida. Because sometimes it *is* hard, sometimes it *is* lonely. And it doesn’t seem too much to ask for the night to shut the hell up, give me nice cold sheets, and let me sleep.

    Eric — December 5, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  • Heather!!!

    As a long time blog reader and fellow lover of the verse genius inherent in artists like Patty, pick me!!! :) I first finally got to meet you at Swallow Hill for The Bittersweets so would love to go to something like this to support the great work that Swallow Hill does. Not sure if I can remember when I first came across Patty Griffin but I think it might have been randomly hearing a song of hers on a TV show at which point I immediately stopped what I was doing and looked it up and promptly fell in love with her. Keep covering these amazing artists/writers/performers Heather.


    Matthew MCGee — December 5, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  • Making Pies is such a great song! I think Steve Earle said it best:

    “I suspect Patty Griffin’s songs make most people a little uncomfortable — like they’ve just walked in on a private moment in someone else’s life and they know they should turn around and tip-toe away, but they can’t. They make me jealous.” — Steve Earle

    Monty — December 6, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  • Making Pies….. “You could cry or die / Or just make pies all day / I’m making pies”

    Aaron — December 10, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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