EMI/Credential Recordings is excited to announce that Patty Griffin is set to release Downtown Church, a gospel-inspired set on January 26, 2010. It is Griffin’s seventh album and was produced by Buddy Miller. Downtown Church was cut live in The Downtown Presbyterian Church on 5th Ave. N. in Nashville over the first week of January 2009 with Griffin singing from the pulpit. It features vocal support from Emmylou Harris, Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, Shawn Colvin, Mike Farris, Buddy and Julie Miller as well as Regina and Ann McCrary, whose father was one of the founding members of the legendary gospel group the Fairfield Four. The musicians are bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose who played with Miller in the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant touring band, as well as long-time Griffin guitarist Doug Lancio, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, John Deaderick on piano and Russ Pahl on steel guitar among others.
The idea for Downtown Church started with EMI’s Peter York suggesting to Griffin that she should consider doing an album of gospel songs. His suggestion grew out of a version of "Waiting For My Child," the song Griffin recorded with Mavis Staples for the Oh Happy Day compilation. Griffin’s answer was simple: "That would be great, as long as Buddy Miller is producing it." She continued, "I still feel like black gospel music, what’s come out of the United States from slavery, is really the foundation for almost everything that I love. I’m talkin’ Beatles and everything. That, to me, is just basic. The foundation."
When Miller and Griffin started work on the record, the producer sent the singer his favorite gospel songs. "Buddy dumped so many songs onto my iTunes that it crashed," Griffin said. "That was a year before we even started making the record. And then he sent me a couple of CDs. There were like 100 songs to start. It was pretty fun going through all that stuff; I got through the first 50 and had everything I needed."
Like Griffin’s previous six albums, Downtown Church is stylistically diverse, focusing not only on the black gospel tradition but also on the white Southern gospel songs of Hank Williams and Alfred G. Karnes (one of the dozens of artists not named Carter or Rodgers who were recorded by Ralph Peer in Bristol, TN, during the late 1920s), and one beautiful nod to Hispanic gospel traditions. Alongside, two Griffin originals and a closing hymn attributed to St. Francis of Assisi round out the record.
Her own contributions came after listening to a goodly handful of Bob Dylan’s religious work. "Buddy sent me a lot of that stuff," she says. "It’s just not my point of view. The songs I’m singing, I’m just interpreting someone else’s ideas, and I’m not tied to those ideas. Listening to Dylan, who’s contemporary, and who’s in my genre, if I may be so bold as to say that, I felt like I really had to write my own and put a couple in there that feel like me."
Griffin and her band will be touring throughout 2010.