Patty Griffin

Impossible Dream (ATO Records)

Patty Griffin hasn't wasted her second chance in the record industry. After a four-year drought caused by label woes, the Austin songwriter has since banged out two albums and a live disc in two years, and she has abandoned her attempts at Alanis-rock that weighed down her old work. Not that her recent music lacks weight: Her latest, Impossible Dream, is her saddest album to date, but its confidence lifts her songwriting to gorgeous heights. Much like her last LP, 1000 Kisses, Dream uses only acoustic instruments, but here, Griffin replaces some of the country sound with blues. Accordions and steel guitars give way to horn sections, organ parts and backing vocals, and the lyrics run parallel to the soulful style. "Tonight I cry for the love that I've lost and the love I've never found," she sings in "Don't Come Easy," and the subtle music beneath her big voice makes the sorrow sound unforced and tangible. "Top of the World" best represents Dream, as the song, once covered in overblown fashion by the Dixie Chicks, benefits from a sparse arrangement that nails the lyrical melancholy. Griffin's great songs have finally met their musical match.

 
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