Monday, August 05, 2002

Griffin right at home south of the river

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        The boss man would have been pleased. Patty Griffin, Dave Matthews' newest employee, was hard at work Friday night, delivering a set of emotionally charged songs to a seemingly spellbound Southgate House audience.

        Ms. Griffin's 1 1/4-hour performance took many songs from 1000 Kisses, her newest album and first on the Dave-owned ATO label. Not that Mr. Matthews should get the credit, but Ms. Griffin — a successful singer-songwriter the last few years — could be enjoying a new level of popularity. The ballroom was sold out, and the crowd was either bored senseless or captivated, because nobody uttered a sound.

        Ms. Griffin, a native of Maine now living in Texas, sang with an adopted twang that seemed to ebb and flow in degrees directly related to the vague Southern-ness of each song's story line.

        Not everything was playing make-believe Dixie chick. “Making Pies” was a spirited ode to a slice of Northeast nostalgia. And 1000 Kisses's title track, the Spanish-sung standard “Mil Besos,” showed the band's versatility in shifting to Tejano. Ms. Griffin was backed by guitarist Doug Lancio (who, with Ms. Griffin, co-produced the album), Michael Ramos on keyboards and accordion, and cellist Brian Standefer, who Southgate House patrons might have recognized as a member of Alejandro Escovedo's band.

        Non-1000 Kisses highlights included an unreleased song introduced as “Truth No. 2” (“I already have another one called "Truth,”' she explained) and “Let Him Fly,” which was covered by and became a big hit for the Dixie Chicks.

        Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson opened the show with a solo act that was much more quirky and much less serious than Ms. Griffin's. She was also much more conversational, telling the crowd her father wrote the Dean Martin hit “Memories are Made of This,” as well as the Disney tune “The Bare Necessities.” Ms. Gilkyson, however, is no Hollywood pop singer. When it came time to sing she took on that same pseudo-Southern singer-songwriter vibe Ms. Griffin has refined.

        Nothing beats sitting in a bar in Kentucky watching women from Maine and L.A. hick it up.


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