This week on eTown we dig into the archives to listen to a show from 2019 featuring American singer-songwriter Patty Griffin and British singer-songwriter John Smith. Nick also has a chat with Dr. Jordan Kassalow about providing eye care to the needy.
Patty Griffin is among the most consequential singer-songwriters of her generation, a quintessentially American artist whose wide-ranging canon incisively explores the intimate moments and universal emotions that bind us together. Over the course of two decades, the GRAMMY® Award winner – and seven-time nominee – has crafted nine classic studio albums and two live collections, a remarkable body of work in progress that prompted the New York Times to hail her for “[writing] cameo-carved songs that create complete emotional portraits of specific people…(her) songs have independent lives that continue in your head when the music ends.”
The Austin, TX-based singer and songwriter made an immediate impact with her 1996 debut, Living With Ghosts, and its 1998 follow-up, Flaming Red – both now considered seminal works of modern folk and Americana. Since then, Griffin’s diverse body of work spans such classic LPs as 2002’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated 1000 Kisses – later ranked #15 on Paste’s“The 50 Best Albums of the Decade (2000-2009),” — to 2007’s Children Running Through, honored by the Americana Music Association with two Americana Honors & Awards including “Artist of the Year” and “Album of the Year.” To date, Griffin has received seven total nominations from the Americana Music Association, affirming her as one of the far-reaching genre’s leading proponents. 2011’s Downtown Church – which blends traditional gospel favorites with Griffin’s own spiritually questioning material – debuted at #1 on both Billboard’s “Folk Albums” and “Christian Albums” charts before winning 2011’s “Best Traditional Gospel Album” GRAMMY® Award, Griffin’s first solo GRAMMY® triumph among seven total career nominations. Griffin’s most recent LP, 2015’s Servant Of Love, marked the first release on her own PGM Recordings label via Thirty Tigers. Applauded by The Guardian as “bravely experimental,” the collection saw Griffin earn still another GRAMMY® Award nomination, this time in the “Best Folk Album” category.
Widely regarded among the best pure songwriters of this or any other era, Griffin has had her work performed by a truly epic assortment of her fellow artists, among them Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, The Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson & Jeff Beck, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Melissa Etheridge and Susan Boyle, to name but a few. Her songs have also been showcased in a variety of film, TV, and theatre projects, with her original music and lyrics featured in the 2007 musical, 10 Million Miles, produced Off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theatre Company and directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer. Griffin has also been joined in the studio by a veritable who’s-who of contemporary Americana, including Harris, Buddy & Julie Miller, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Ian McLagen, JD Foster, and many others. As if her own remarkable career weren’t enough, Griffin has found time to collaborate with a wide range of like-minded artists, among them Joshua Radin, Todd Snider, Dierks Bentley, Robert Plant, Jack Ingram, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings.
In addition to her creative career, Griffin has also devoted considerable energy and focus towards the wellbeing of the planet as well as showing compassion for the less fortunate among us via personal and public acts of charity including helping to create the Lampedusa tours supporting the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Having crafted a rich catalog that chronicles love and death, heartache and joy, connection and detachment, Patty Griffin continues to push her art forward, as always imbuing every effort with compassion and craft, uncanny perception, and ever-increasing ingenuity.
Born in Essex, raised by the Devon seaside, and making his bones in the bars and clubs of Liverpool, John has released six studio albums with over 100 million Spotify streams. He has played to audiences all over the world in living rooms, festival tents and sold-out concert halls, barely pausing for breath during his eighteen years as a full-time independent touring musician.
Steeped in the lineage of British folk and American guitar music, taking his cue from Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Ry Cooder, Smith has evolved a transatlantic blend of fingerstyle and slide guitar techniques. His deeply romantic and vivid songwriting, combined with his innovative guitar work, have won him a loyal following. His honey-on-gravel voice and mesmerizing fingerstyle guitar are undeniable. Sometimes using a slide, sometimes with guitar on his lap, sometimes detuning mid-song or pulling subtle expressions out of an array of effect pedals, Smith’s obsession with the instrument has made a master of him. Whether by way of an album or a live show, he always leads the listener on a viscerally emotional journey.
His career began opening for folk greats including John Martyn, Davy Graham and John Renbourn, who called him “the future of folk music.” He has since opened for Iron and Wine, Patty Griffin and Ben Howard, and guested with artists such as Jackson Browne, Martin Carthy, Roseanne Cash, Gomez, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker, Jerry Douglas, Glen Hansard and Rodney Crowell. In his occasional role as sideman, he has played guitar for artists as diverse as David Gray, Lisa Hannigan, Lianne La Havas, Joe Henry and Joan Baez.
He has released six records of his own songs. ‘Headlong’ (2017) reached #15 in the Indie Breakers chart, #1 on iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter chart, and his catalogue has amassed over 100 million Spotify streams. There is also a variety of live albums, instrumental EPs and cover records out there, which John often makes available directly to his loyal following of die-hard music fans.
His latest album “The Fray” was released worldwide in March 2021 on his own imprint, Commoner Records, via Thirty Tigers.