Patty Griffin

1000 Kisses (ATO/BMG)

On her third album New England folk-pop chanteuse Patty Griffin gets her full, slightly husky alto to work overtime for her: 1000 Kisses is that rare singer-songwriter record that winds its way through a handful of stylistic settings but holds together as the work of a single voice. There's plenty of the bucolic strumming that Nashville's never quite gotten its ear around--"Did I show you this picture of my nephew taken at his big birthday surprise at my sister's house last Sunday?" Griffin gabs between sips of coffee on "Making Pies"--and there's a bit of the plaintive, scorched-earth poetry she picked up from idols like Bruce Springsteen (whose "Stolen Car" she sings as a spectral hymn); her attention to detail on "Long Ride Home," which documents a new widow's first day alone, is uncomfortably vivid. But there's also some unexpectedly elliptical work here, loosely impressionistic songs that hover like Beth Orton's over whole gulfs of emotion--when she sings of "a couple of long years of me walking around and 'round this trail of tears" on the gorgeous "Nobody's Crying," you'll feel each one. And the torchy "Tomorrow Night" and the elaborate Spanish ballad "Mil Besos" just come out of nowhere, exclamation points at the end of a rangy (but never out-of-range) statement of purpose.

 
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