American Kid, Patty Griffin’s seventh album, is her first album of mainly new material since Children Running Through in 2007. In between, she made the Grammy Award-winning Downtown Church (2010), her version of classic gospel (though it featured three original songs). She also became a member of Band of Joy, the group in which leader Robert Plant and his cohorts meld British and American folk, rock and spiritual music.
American Kid, much of which Griffin says “was written to honor my father,” returns to typical Patty Griffin territory, which is to say that it features a group of remarkably powerful, personal and unpredictable songs arranged and performed in a style that doesn’t entirely repeat anything she’s done on her previous albums while drawing on all of them. Yet Griffin’s catalog is among the most unified in modern popular music, because her singing is as unmistakable and inimitable as her songwriting.
Griffin has lived in Austin and recorded either in Austin and Nashville throughout her career (she released her first album, Living with Ghosts, in 1996) but American Kid is her first album whose music sounds stylistically rooted in Americana. “It was recorded in Memphis,” Griffin says, and adds with a quick laugh, “Part of the reason was the chance to get away from what I’d been doing.” The key to that was working with North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson and drummer Cody Dickinson. The Dickinsons had played acoustic sets opening for Band of Joy and Luther gave Patty lessons on mandolin. “With the Dickinsons, you’re constantly seeing people who work to get away from what they’re used to.”