Last Tuesday I ordered my copy of Patty Griffin’s new CD (and for once I actually bought the CD rather than downloading the album from iTunes) Downtown Church, which NPR describes as “the equivalent of a slow walk into a field of wildflowers — a journey in which you look up at a bluebird sky and take a deep breath with your eyes closed.” I really like much of Griffin’s other music, and PJ and I had seen her in concert here in Athens with Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, and Buddy Miller not too long ago (and, PJ reminds me, we also saw her as the opening act for Lucinda Williams back in the 1990s when we lived in Knoxville).

Even though I generally like her music, I’ve never bought it before. Usually PJ buys it and I just listen to it. But I started listening to it on NPR and thought it was worth getting. Besides, if I didn’t like it I could always give it to him.

It turns out that I love this album. It’s already in contention for my favorite album of the year. It’s definitely a breathe of fresh air. I also agree with NPR that she’s produced “an album that’s so mesmerizing, it’s difficult to believe Griffin isn’t a card-carrying member of The Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville.” (Griffin recorded the album there about a year ago.)

Only two of the songs on the album are original; the others are all gospel classics or traditional tunes in the public domain. Not surprisingly, it’s the two original songs that I love most, “Little Fire” and “Coming Home to Me.” After much internal debate, I’ve selected the latter as my song of the week:

I love that, while this song is written from a God-like perspective, it can easily be transferred to other situations as well. For example, when I listen to this song, what I hear is a song from one lover to another, a reminder that whatever is happening in his life he’s always coming home to me, to my arms, to my love. And vice versa. In that way, it’s an incredibly moving and beautiful song.

“Little Fire” is also wonderful. Emmylou Harris also sings on this track. It sounds a little more like Griffin’s other songs and doesn’t immediately strike me as “religiously inspired.” The embedding is disabled, but here’s the video for the song.

The traditional songs are also really good. And they demonstrate the full range of “gospel” music. “House of Gold” is a traditional country song. “Move Up” has an old-time rock and roll vibe. “Death’s Got a Warrant” could have been featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. And so on. They’re all great songs.

Here are the lyrics to “Coming Home to Me”:

Anytime you say it with heart
Anytime you’re falling apart
When you’re washing the sheets
Any stranger you meet
When there’s somebody waving goodbye

You’re coming home to me, just remember
You’re coming home to me

It’s a world full of bar rooms and alleys
Of blue nights and red river valleys
When you feel like a shirt and a tie
Or like dirt
Or a lion and no one can see

You’re coming home to me, just remember
You’re coming home to me

When you get to that place
That’s just under the stars
Hanging over the tree
Out of order the tree (?)
When you get there you’ll know
That’s as far as you go
When you get there you’ll see
You were already free
When you get there you’ll la la la la la la

When you’re lost and you’re found
And you’re found and you’re lost
When you’re dancing with no one around

You’re coming home to me, just remember
You’re coming home to me

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