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Monday, October 16, 2006

Album Review: Living With Ghosts

For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

Living With Ghosts, By Patty Griffin

When I first shed an ear towards Patty Griffin’s music I had listened to her loose hit, One Big Love. One Big Love was stylish, had a rich country feel but without the overly twangy vocals, and seemed to have a bit of down home soul to it. It was awesome and I immediately became hooked.
I started out listening to Griffin’s 2nd album, Flaming Red which contained blues songs, country songs, folk songs, and some genuine rock songs. It was very diverse and unlike anything I have ever heard before. After hearing a lot of acclaim for Living With Ghosts, I figured that if Flaming Red was great, Ghosts should blow me away.

It actually didn’t at first because it wasn’t at all what I expected. I was used to the diversity of Flaming Red but instead I got acoustic, hardcore folk. There is no percussion on Ghosts, just Patty and her guitar which caught me off guard and allowed me to put it on my shelf for a month until I truly discovered it.

1. Moses

Diamonds, Roses
I need Moses

The first lyrics seem to convey the frustration with being a single woman with only a gay man to spend time with. It’s very interesting because she seems to interlace some biblical themes about crossing the river and of course, Moses.

2. Let Him Fly
Probably better known as the Dixie Chicks hit instead of the Patty Griffin hit. In fact the Dixie Bitches have used about 4 of Patty’s songs for various albums and cashed in on her writing talent.

But yeah, Let Him Fly is another song that have varying themes of faith and religion, which, for me, was really weird seeing as she has a song on Flaming Red called “Wiggly Fingers” deals with masturbation and how the church is against it. She really goes after Pope John Paul in there too.

3. Every Little Bit
Patty deals with a ton of subjects in her songs from domestic abuse to religion in all aspects. In Every Little Bit it could be interpreted as some guy cheating on her and she’s reflecting on all the questions from within the relationship that are starting to make sense.

I can chew like a cannon ball I can yell like a cat
I even had you believing that really like it like that

This song has me believing that this really happened to her because she seems to sing it with such angst. Probably her most believable song.

4. Time Will Do the Talking

Time will do the talking
Years will do the walking
I’ll just find a comfy spot and wait it out

Basically this is exactly what the title says, wait and see I guess.

5. Mad Mission

A nice little song about maybe a challenging job or me and dating right now. I guess it’s all about wanting to have challenges in your life. Or maybe it’s just about life. I dunno.

6. Poor Man’s House
Now here’s where we get into the really cool stuff. Poor Man’s House is an absolute gem of a song with lyrics that are phenomenal.

You know you've done enough when every bone is sore
You know you've prayed enough
when you don't ask any more
You know you're coming to some kind of understanding
When every dream you've dreamed
has passed and you're still standing
Mama says God tends to every little skinny sheep
So count your ribs and say your prayers and get to sleep
Nothing is louder to God's ears than a poor mans sorrow
Daddy is poor today and he will be poor tomorrow

Perfectly conveys the hopelessness of that particular situation. I especially love the Mother quotes in how she’s talking to her kids on what God does. It’s just beautiful

Hey that's the poor man's house
Everybody get a look at the poor man's house
Everywhere they went before must have turned them out
And now they're living in a poor man's house

There's nothing like poverty to get you into heaven
They got a lot of wine and fish up there
And the bread's unleavened
They got a lot of ears that heard a whip go crack
Lots of missing toes and fingers
and scars upon their backs
Daddy's been working too much for days and days and he doesn't eat
He never says much
but I think this time it's got him beat
It isn't that he isn't strong or kind or clever
Your daddy's poor today
And he will be poor forever

Now this verse deals with slavery and all the poor slaves are now up in heaven which I have always thought of and interesting twist. It seems to establish some sort of hot summer feel maybe (or maybe that’s incredibly racist. I dunno)
Also the last two lines, ‘You’re daddy’s poor today and he will be poor forever’ seem to really stand out

Hey, that's the poor man's house
Those kids are living in a poor man's house
They walk to school with the soles
of their shoes worn out
And come home in the evening to the poor man's house

What are you chopping that wood for
Why are you growing that corn
Mama's sewing a brand new shirt and
You're wearing the one that's torn
I guess it's for someone else's kid who wasn't born
In a poor man's house

This is another classic verse which paints the picture of the family struggling with their poverty and the struggles with maintaining a family

Hey take a look at that house
Everybody we're living in a poor man's house
Seems like everywhere we go they find us out
Find out that we've been living in a poor man's house

As you can probably tell, I love this song. This song is one of the most vivid songs I’ve ever heard. The crazy thing is, it’s not the best song on the album.

7. Forgiveness
I guess this was the song I was listening to while the Hurricane Katrina thing was going on on.

We are swimming with the snakes
At the bottom of the well

She sings these lines very well.

Open your eyes boy
I think we are saved
Take a walk on the bridge
Right over this mess

Those were the specific lines that made me think of Katrina.

I guess what I really like about the song is that it stays with the spiritual theme and ends with

Everybody needs a little forgiveness
Which I think is simple and beautiful

8. You never get what you want

Ever since I've know you you've walked that walk
You've broken all the records
Now you've broken all the clocks

My favorite lyric of the song.

9. Sweet Lorraine
Clearly a puzzling song painting the picture of a woman growing up with no support and anyone that believed in her.

Her mother threw stones at her
The day that she moved

Her her daddy called her a slut and a whore
On the night before her wedding day
Very next morning at the church
Her daddy gave Lorraine away

How that for lyrics? I mean good lord that’s the kind of thing chills are made of.

10. Not Alone
Probably the most chilling song I have ever heard. This very song makes this album priceless.

I could easily write down all the lyrics but there is one verse that I would like to point out.

One of them bullets went straight for the jugular vein
There were people running , a flash of light
Then everything changed
Nothing really matters in the end you know
All the worries severs
Don't be afraid for me my friend
one day we all fall down forever

This verse tells the time before the bullet hits the person, the moment it hits the person, and everything after.

It’s just phenomenal is all I can say.

Living With Ghosts has some absolute gems and it’s probably one of the lyrical highlights to my music collection (not that I have a lot but…).

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