Flaming Red

Flaming Red

Patty Griffin has always had the vocal pipes. She has also shown great depth and versatility as a songwriter, able to squeeze emotion to the breaking point without settling for sentimentality. Flaming Red, Griffin’s second album, coming after the guitar and voice of Living With Ghosts, is her attempt to toughen up and try her hand at leading a more conventional and, therefore, commercial enterprise. While those familiar with her quieter and solemn moments will be taken aback by the unapologetic rock guitars that fuel “Tony” (the horror story of a young gay man’s suicide) and “Change,” those buckled in for the wilder ride will find a refreshing energy she rarely attempts anymore. Flaming Red represents an intriguing dimension for this singer-songwriter whose songs covered by the Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride and Reba McEntire have now aligned her with a country-tinged following. The shuffling, country strains of “Goodbye” (which McBride covered) are closer to the performer she’s become. But half the fun here is hearing Griffin toying with something like the adult-contemporary keyboards and guitars of “Carry Me. “ It makes for pleasant surprises.

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