Sunday, May 13, 2007

Music Review -- Children Running Through by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin has already made a lot of good music in her career, though I have never become a real big fan. I did enjoy seeing her live when she was touring for her ’02 release 1000 Kisses. With Children Running Through, I think Griffin has created the most fully realized album of her career.

I have always tried hard on my blog not to gush about music, especially since my perception of albums tends to change drastically with time and more listens. Nevertheless, I have given this over twenty spins and think this is something special.

Griffin seamlessly slides from mellow or mid-tempo songs to rockier songs without worrying about transitioning or creating a certain mood. This creates a jarring and incredibly satisfying ride of emotions. She begins with the quiet You’ll Remember as she croons, “Maybe one day along the way/ You'll remember me on this island/ Smiling at you how I used to/ Maybe one day, you'll remember.”

Griffin does not do as much storytelling on this album as she usually does, but the writing is excellent. Jangly guitars highlight track two, Stay on the Ride, as she tells the story of a bus ride. The masterpiece of the album is Trapeze, a duet with the amazing Emmylou Harris. Griffin writes, “She started with us on the back of a horse/ Just seventeen and already divorced/ She took to the air with the greatest of ease/ Like she was born to be gliding on the old trapeze/ Some people don't care if they live or they die/ Some people want to know what it feels like to fly/ Gather their courage and they give it a try.”

This is a confident outing with absolutely no soft spots at all. There are many gospel tinged songs here along with Griffin’s characteristic folk rock sound. Rarely is a performer this confident in every song and every style that is attempted. My only very minor complaint is that the album loses a bit of its intensity and swagger near the end, but there are no filler songs on Children Running Through and the mellower tunes are just as powerful as the others. This is for fans of Over the Rhine, Nickel Creek or West by Lucinda Williams. I’ll be extremely surprised if this is not my favorite album at the end of 2007.

3.75 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale

Listening to this makes you feel like those rare, brief moments when you feel extra confident and maybe just a little cocky.

What I’m Reading -- Rash by Pete Hautman

Bo Marsten lives in a future where safety is considered the most important thing. Which makes being Bo, a normal boy with a bit of a temper, a tough thing. Eventually, he gets in enough trouble that he becomes part of the country’s large prison labor force making pizzas. That is until the warden discovers that Bo is quite good at an illegal sport, football. This is a good book though it drags a bit when the conclusion becomes obvious. This is an exciting book and Hautman deftly balances the harsh realities of his future world and the great adventures of Bo and his friends.

What I’m Reading -- Its Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Ned Vizzini’s latest novel is quite reminiscent of another ’06 Teen novel which is Jordan Sonnenblick’s Notes from the Midnight Driver. In Its Kind of a Funny Story, Craig is having trouble dealing with his life that seems to center around his failure to land the girl he wants and failure to handle his new tough school. This gets to him enough that he considers jumping off a New York City brigde, but luckily he gets checked in to a mental hospital. At the hospital, he starts to recover and tries to get things straight in his life again. Of course, he is put in an adult ward with lots of charmingly weird mental patients. This skews any reality that Vizzini builds up during the first part of the book. The author wonderfully sets up Craig’s life and why it becomes too much for him. After he ends up in the mental hospital, the novel is still entertaining, just in a completely different way. Overall, this is a solid novel with aspirations of begin something more. This is as entertaining as his last novel, Be More Chill, so I hope Vizzini is building up to a book that better combines the elements of his novels with a bit more depth.

What I’m Reading -- Heavy Metal and You by Christopher Krovatin

Christopher Krovatin’s first novel is a solid effort. While I did not love the book, there is not really anything bad to say about it. This is basically a relationship novel, but from a guy’s perspective under the backdrop of being a metalhead (actually, it is funny that I’m writing this while jamming out to Aqualung, who is not exactally a hard rock band). Much of the novel is about our identities as Sam starts going out with straightedger Mellissa. Things seem great but Sam starts to think he is completely changing for her and wonders if Mellissa is even being herself. The scenes where they meet each others friends are searing and great fun (who hasn’t wanted to yell at yuppies while in a yuppie bar?). It does seem like while Krovatin handles his story and characters well, there is not much special or unique going on here. Still, this is solid and will definitely appeal to teenage boys.