Thursday, November 26, 2009

All Things Patty: Part Two

Not many artists can survive a fall out with a disagreeing label—whether because of exhaustion, depression or debt. Even fewer manage to emerge from two dysfunctional label relationships and garner the adoration of critics and fans like Patty Griffin has.

Her career began in the late 1980s with gigs in Boston bars and pubs booked by a guitar teacher from the Cambridge Music Center, John Curtis. It was a slow start for Patty- at one point she held jobs as a telephone operator and waitress at Pizza Uno to support herself. The dissolution of a marriage and the collapse of an artist development deal on "Like A Virgin" producer Nile Rodgers’ label sent Patty into a deep depression. Out of this tumultuous period sprang the songs that would eventually comprise her phenomenal 1996 A & M Records debut, Living With Ghosts.

Patty’s 1998 follow up, the Jay Joyce-produced Flaming Red, was a pulsating rock ‘n’ roller with loud guitars, biting lyrics and soaring vocals. Two weeks into its release, Universal Music took control of A & M and Patty was displaced to Interscope Records. Misfortune would yet again plague her young career when Universal Music was acquired by Vivendi in the spring of 2000. After recording her third album, Silver Bell, in New Orleans with producers Joyce, Craig Ross and Malcolm Burn, Patty’s new label sat on the finished product for a year.

They wanted singles, and Patty was told exactly that—record 10 radio friendly songs, and her work would see the light of day. The label handed her a copy of U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind for inspiration. She went back into the studio, but soon found the "hit" songs weren’t there. Patty asked her manager to cut her a deal out of the contract. The label conceded on the condition that she was only entitled to re-record five of the album’s tracks for future releases. Any more than that and Patty would have to pay for each additional song. Eager to get the nearly two-year ordeal behind her, she agreed.

Ironically, it was her performance of selected songs from Silver Bell on the television program Austin City Limits that caught Dave Matthews’ attention. Shortly thereafter, Patty was signed to his label and made her ATO Records debut in 2002 with 1000 Kisses.

Silver Bell is one of many albums to never see a commercial release. It did, however, find its way to the Internet to the delight of Patty fans around the world. The 14-track collection is a testament to her range and talent—emotive, well-crafted and achingly beautiful songs.

Little God
Perfect White Girls
Truth #2
What You Are
Silver Bell
Sooner Or Later
Top Of the World [alternate version featured on Impossible Dream [2004]
Sorry And Sad
Making Pies [alternate version featured on 1000 Kisses[2002]
Mother Of God [alternate version featured on Impossible Dream [2004]
One More Girl
Standing [original recording used on Impossible Dream [2004]

For the entire album, including a bonus cover of "Kiss Them For Me" by Siouxsie & The Banshees, head over to Omnipop.

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