It's nothing new for an artist to try different genres of music, but not many can pull off multiple styles in an original way — let alone a way that actually sounds good. Count Patty Griffin among those rare musicians.
I've been a fan of Griffin's since I picked up her 1998 release Flaming Red, a compelling mix of punk, pop, and what was then referred to as 'alternative' music. Griffin's newest release, Downtown Church, is wildly different musically, but no less great a listen.
While some critics—and Griffin herself—have deemed Downtown Church a gospel album, it's much more than that. To my ears, it's an eclectic mingling of soul, blues, gospel, and a couple of songs those of us who have spent some time in the southern part of the United States refer to as spirituals. Griffin's voice is equally enchanting on each of the fourteen songs on the album, whether belting out gospel numbers like “Move Up” and “Wade In The Water,” or crooning the hymn that ends the CD, “All Creatures of our God and King.” Griffin's voice fairly caresses you on the album's lone Spanish language track, “Virgen de Guadalupe.” Though Griffin fluctuates between the somber and the lively, the album's flow and pure woman-positive energy is uninterrupted.
Recorded in the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville—hence the album title—Downtown Church features backup performances from country and gospel heroines like Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, and Regina and Ann McCrary. Even if this isn't the kind of music you'd normally tune in to, Downtown Church is definitely worth the listen.