Patty Griffin Impossible Dream

For someone who attracted comparisons to Tori Amos and Alanis Morrisette early on, Patty Griffin's career has moved in a much more rootsy direction, now sounding somewhat like a country and blues version of Suzanne Vega. The first song off her fifth album, "Love Throws a Line" boasts a soulful voice that could blow doors off their hinges, just in case anyone forgot Griffin could do that sort of thing. But the Joan Osborne treatment on gritty blues tracks such as this juxtapose a singer that can attain the sort of fragility Emmylou Harris has become famous for and, on "Cold As It Gets,” the breathy transparent vocals are matched eerily by the corpse-cold lyrics Griffin meditates. These two extremes run throughout Impossible Dream, often in the same song, as Griffin's ability to condense her entire essence into a vocal emotion succeed whether at bell-clarity full volume or a child's whisper. Impossible Dream is sustained by simple production, not as minimal and live-off-the-floor-ish as some of her work, but certainly never overbearing. At times there is little more than Griffin's voice, a high-hat and some atmospheric guitar (as on the slow gospel blues "Standing"), but we are treated to full arrangements on songs such as "Useless Desire" and "Top of the World." These two vie for the album's high point, a hard decision on a disc so crammed with beauty. "Useless Desires" has a broad country vocal with captivating melody and word play over a deceptively simple backing courtesy of Lisa Germano's violin. "Top of the World" chills the listener with its forlorn lyric that inverts the meaning of the title when taken on its own: "I think I broke the wings off the little songbird / She's never gonna fly to the top of the world." With an album as good as Impossible Dream, sung in a voice so captivating, it’s quite obvious the wings of this songbird are only just beginning to stretch. (ATO)