Patty Griffin: Downtown Church

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Patty Griffin: <em>Downtown Church</em>

Folk songstress offers Sunday-morning spirituals

The details behind Patty Griffin’s seventh release are intriguing enough without listening to a single song: The entire record was cut in a 160-year-old Presbyterian church that once welcomed Andrew Jackson and survived the Civil War as a hospital for Union soldiers.

There’s something about Griffin’s trilling pipes ricocheting through this vast and timeworn sanctuary that paints the album in an otherworldly, eternal hue as she dips deeply into gospel traditions.

On pastoral lullaby “House of Gold,” Griffin belts through the sleepy ambience of organ and guitar, denying earth’s most precious metals for her faith in an invisible grace. She then swiftly shifts to fire-and-brimstone judgments like “Death’s Got A Warrant” and “I Smell A Rat.” Despite such drastic turns, the record retains Griffin’s unquenchable yearning for the heavenly world to come.