For over 20 years Patty Griffin has steadily been cementing her place in folk and Americana royalty through the power of her compelling lyrics and transcendent vocal performances. On Thursday, August 2, the Grammy awardwinning artist will take the stage at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown alongside longtime collaborator and guitar player David Pulkingham. The performance will begin at 8 pm, and tickets, which can be purchased on the Martha’s Vineyard Concert Series website, range from $83 to $88.
In spite of having lived in Boston for 10 years, Griffin admits that she’s never spent much time on the Cape or Islands, but she is excited to swing through on her tour of the Northeast this summer. The current run of shows will zigzag the region from New Hampshire to New Jersey, among other places, before she heads West in the fall for performances in Texas and at Denver’s iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre. When asked about her approach to live performance, Griffin told The Times, “I try to face every audience with a fresh idea, because everybody in the audience is different.”
Attendees at the Old Whaling Church can expect an eclectic musical blend with Griffin’s voice and the guitar at the center of the sound. The duo will perform a mix of her well-known material as well as brand-new, unreleased songs from Griffin’s upcoming record. “I’m taking pleasure in the fact that I’m not actually selling it yet,” she says of the new material, “so I can just go play and enjoy it.” Griffin’s eagerly awaited 10th studio album has been written, and she is currently in the midst of the recording process. “We’ve been recording for a few months, and we have enough for a record,” she told The Times. When asked what fans can expect from her latest project, she simply says, “I’ve never known how to describe it. You’ll have to wait and hear.”
Griffin rose to prominence with her 1996 debut, “Living With Ghosts,” and its acclaimed follow-up, 1998’s “Flaming Red.” By 2007 she had cracked into the mainstream with the hit song “Heavenly Day” from the record “Children Running Through,” and she has been a force to be reckoned with ever since. In 2011 her album “Downtown Church” was honored with the Grammy Award for best traditional gospel album, and, in total, Griffin has been nominated seven times in various categories. By all accounts Patty Griffin is an artist of the highest caliber, and a dynamic songwriter who defies expectation with every new pursuit.
Griffin’s latest release, from early June of this year, was an under-the-radar cover of “I Do Believe” that matched her compelling vocal style with a concise, traditional lyric. The song was originally performed by the Highwaymen, the country music supergroup of legend comprised of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. Written by none other than Jennings himself, the song was a deep album cut from 1995’s “The Road Goes On Forever.” The song addresses the tension between sincerely held belief and the challenges of religious hierarchy with lyrics like, “In my own way, I’m a believer, but not in voices I can’t hear,” bringing a poetically critical lens to a genre that often privileges a more traditional message. If anyone was going to tackle this enigmatic tune, one of the few capable American musicians alive today would have to be Patty Griffin. Although not a single from her upcoming record, the song is available through all mainstream music streaming outlets online.
In between records, Griffin dedicates her time and resources to work described on her website as “contributing to the wellbeing of the planet and showing compassion for the less fortunate among us.” Her 2016 “Use Your Voice” tour was a collaboration with the League of Women Voters in an effort to drive voter registration and engagement, and in 2017 she contributed to the Jesuit Refugee Service through the “Lampedusa Tour” alongside Brandi Carlile, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, and Emmylou Harris. The tour supported efforts to educate displaced people, and took place in partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency. Whether writing songs about the bonds of family and community on the most local level, or lending her voice to a global cause, Griffin’s music always serves a higher purpose.
Griffin was most recently added to the lineup for Brandi Carlile’s upcoming, all-women festival in Mexico, “Girls Just Wanna Weekend,” scheduled for Jan. 30 through Feb. 3, 2019, at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. Along with Carlile, Griffin will join the lineup alongside KT Tunstall, Maren Morris, Indigo Girls, and Ruby Amanfu. The festival takes a swipe at the notion that female headliners are not a sound investment on the festival stage.