Patty Griffin / Isobel Heyworth - Manchester Academy 3 - 19.06.05

The little voiced Isobel Heyworth coyly adopted her position of prominence huddling her acoustic guitar for comfort. Then confidence, prowess and subtlety exuded from her, as she made everyone feel special in the heart-warming and caressing opener ‘Just For You’.

The meandering acoustic accompaniment would meet up with Isobel’s calming and uplifting vocals that bought together the sound of Sandy Denny, Joan Baez and Emiliana Torrini. ‘Best Dress On’ demonstrated the ability of this young enchantress to build up emotion in a song, with the number touching hearts, via its soothing simplicity and heartfelt vocals. Through a brief, but captivatingly tingling acoustic driven set  this crafted songstress discarded her doubts and visibly became the epitome of grace and dignity.

The muggy air that was causing a little discomfort amongst the gathered on this steamy summer evening dissolved when the Austin, Texan Patty Griffin filled it with the commanding sound of country fuelled and blues specked opener ‘The Truth’. The full band sound that greeted us early on had a soulful, yet haunting feel that emanated from the hollow instrumentals and continued through the vocals that weave together a range of influences from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. Patti regaled enthralled onlookers with between song humility, as she paid homage to Manchester and pitied those suffering in the heat.

An impressive solo round meant that the set climbed to a lofty peak midway through when the songstress robustly rattled her acoustic guitar, in order to produce a weaving and slightly longing feel that culminated in the feisty yet maudlin ‘Flaming Red’. The way this earnest performer stretched the boundaries of acoustic propelled music to provide vibrancy and rhythm, it came as no surprise when one guitar was taken beyond its limits. The guitar was then dropped unceremoniously on its way to being repaired, but unperturbed Patti merely shrugged and joined in the amusement at the situation.  This signalled the end of a set within a set that had pungency, emotion and depth. Thus emphatically providing an example of how Sylvia Plath would have come off had she penned and performed songs.

After an emotional musical journey spanning the many moods and feelings of the affable, veracious and deep Patti Griffin, the lucky audience were treated to a tasty sample of popular country music with the uplifting and homely; ‘Making Pies’ from the underrated album ‘1000 Kisses’. The Texan’s voice upped a pace and softened slightly, as the guitars zinged with country spice. The lyrics painted pictures of the simple things in life and made the whole room feel as though they were part of one big happy family;

“Did I show you this picture of my nephew
Taken at his big birthday surprise
At my sister’s house last sunday
This is monday and we’re making pies
I’m making pies
Making pies.”

This number and the whole evening satisfied appetites for thoughtful music and left people hungry for more.

David Adair

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