One Track Mind: Patty Griffin with Robert Plant, “Ohio” from American Kid (2013)

There has been, over the last months, much more chatter about Robert Plant’s private affairs with Patty Griffin than anything they’ve done in the studio. “Ohio,” from Griffin’s upcoming release American Kid, changes that.

Plant started it, of course, saying he’d eloped with his bandmate in the Buddy Miller-produced Band of Joy. Then, taking it back. Then going on tour together again, this time as the Sensational Shape Shifters. Then, maybe wearing wedding bands in some photos. And so on.

What, you know, about some music?

Griffin’s new Memphis-recorded album, due May 7, 2013 from New West Records, in fact features three tracks with Plant, two of which were previewed last December during a joint performance at an Austin benefit. Her crack band includes the Dickinson siblings, Cody and Luther, of the North Mississippi All Stars — who opened for the Band of Joy on its most recent tour.

Together, they create a lonesome intrigue, closer to a real blues than anything Plant once aped early on with Led Zeppelin, but at the same time go deeper into the holler — like a canny update of Raising Sand, his celebrated bluegrass-inflected collaboration with Alison Krauss. And far more emotionally connected, perhaps no surprise considering the skin Plant apparently has (or not!) in this particular game.

American Kid was produced by Craig Ross, who has previously worked as a guitarist with Lisa Germano, violinist in the 1980s-era John Mellencamp band. Ross also produced 2004′s Impossible Dream for Griffin.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Shannon

    Great song and sure to be a great album. Kind of insulting review honestly. Oh well, to each their own.

  • Jessica

    While I’m always glad to hear about anything new Patty Griffin and/or Robert Plant are up to, I can’t help but question the way this article was written. The fact that Robert joked around with a reporter he felt was prying into his personal life, something he rightfully likes to keep to himself, and then reporters lost their minds trying to report the “scoop” without actually checking into things, is no reason to imply that the relationship isn’t solid. Also, while I do think the song is great and has a very bluesy vibe and is a great collaboration by the two, by Patty’s on admission, the sound and feel of the song came from Robert when she was stuck on how she wanted to present it…so he brought that from his very well recorded history of blues infused music. I agree with the other comment that this review, while positive about the song, was really pretty much insulting all around about the two people singing. Plant is well versed in blues music and has been for more years than many of us have even been alive, and not parading their personal life out for the press is not indicative of anything other than the fact that it’s not really anyone else’s business. To use the “are they / aren’t they” plot through a majority of what is supposed to be a review of the song comes across as a cheap ploy to obtain interest in a story that really is interesting enough on its own merit to not require such tactics.

  • JC Mosquito

    Insulting? well, I guess ya got me there – whereabouts did it get insulting? I don’t know why nowadays if you don’t say it’s the greatest thing since Nutella and white bread people take offense.

    Maybe from now on there should be a format for all reviews of new releases: “The new album (name of album) by (insert artist) is THE BEST FRIGGIN’ THING EVER MADE BY ANYONE EVER!!!!!!!! And any one who thinks otherwise is a (insert derogatory off color colorful descriptors)!!!!!!!!”

  • George

    Patty Griffin will be remembered as an artist of importance in her own right. She won’t be Robert Plants Cortney Love. She’s an apex talent as a writer, singer, and musician. Screw her marital status. Led Zepplin 3 was my favorite albumn my senior year. Immigrant Song made hairs stand on my arms. Now I listen to Mary and the same thing but my jaw drops a bit too. I know what this lady is about. Her mother was the most pretty lady in the world. And in her music is harbored the brilliance that is a PRIVALAGE for her fans to share in. I’m all into Ohio. Sun.

  • Michele

    This reviewer perceived “a lonesome intrigue”, which from an artistic standpoint is telling in regard to the inner workings of the human soul. His comparison of Patty Griffin and Allison Krauss from an artistic standpoint is interesting, as well as his recognition of the emotional element conveyed onstage.

    Although I disagree with this reviewer’s opinion of Robert Plant’s rendition of the blues during his Zeppelin days, I think it is advisable to focus on this part of this review of the music …

    Griffin’s new Memphis-recorded album, due May 7, 2013 from New West Records, in fact features three tracks with Plant, two of which were previewed last December during a joint performance at an Austin benefit. Her crack band includes the Dickinson siblings, Cody and Luther, of the North Mississippi All Stars — who opened for the Band of Joy on its most recent tour.

    Together, they create a lonesome intrigue, closer to a real blues than anything Plant once aped early on with Led Zeppelin, but at the same time go deeper into the holler — like a canny update of Raising Sand, his celebrated bluegrass-inflected collaboration with Alison Krauss. And far more emotionally connected, perhaps no surprise considering the skin Plant apparently has (or not!) in this particular game.

    American Kid was produced by Craig Ross, who has previously worked as a guitarist with Lisa Germano, violinist in the 1980s-era John Mellencamp band. Ross also produced 2004?s Impossible Dream for Griffin.

    As for comments about the personal life, Robert Plant has had many relationships in his life, and being the public person that he is, somewhat like Elizabeth Taylor, people are naturally curious. I would not worry too much about it or try to read too much into it. Being overly defensive of Patty Griffin may distract some people from recognizing her on her own merit, especially those who are unfamiliar with her and who she is. It’s perhaps better to spotlight her on the basis of her musical abilities and her talent as a performer and a writer, especially to those who may know little about her work.

    Understanding that Robert Plant has an extremely commanding stage presence and tends to be bigger than life, sharing a spotlight with him inevitably presents a challenge to most mere mortals.

  • Michele

    And on the topic of committed relationships, he has probably had several. But he is a whiz at promotions, and whatever musical project he takes on will likely succeed.

  • George

    Hope this marriage produces many more children as beautiful as Ohio. It sounds like people will always try to turn these relationships into some kind of spectacle of futile gossip, but I won’t consider anybody here a sell out until Madona gets tongue from one of them, Patty shaves her head bald, or Robert (we all know where this is going) is introduced onto stage by Linsey Lohan as her new driver. Can’t wait for American Kid. I hope that history will describe their marriage with words like happy, safe and easy. And I hope it adds “often unlike the sounds of the music they created together.”

  • Michele

    Judging from history, at this point I would not jump to too many conclusions about anything. Apparently, this is all proving to be a discovery process.

  • Olivia

    Maybe people are concentrating MORE on Plant and Griffith’s relationship than the music because the music isn’t that great. Not saying he and she in their own rights aren’t great performers, just the fact that those two voices together just aren’t working. You can barely hear Robert and her high notes towards the end, well, just not happening. Maybe Plant should have noticed this is NOT her style — maybe?? Also, if that song is HIS creation, then I am very disappointed in him. This song in no way, shape or form is “blues”. It’s just TIRED. And compare THIS thing to anything Led Zep did? Are you freaking kidding?

  • George

    It isn’t HIS song. And what’s with the CAP.’s? Robert Plant isn’t God. But come to think of it, if God chose Mary (and Patty OWNS that song!) maybe you’re on to something. He also made apples and oranges, but he didn’t say “it is good” afterward. He said let us compare them because we don’t want people to taste more than one. And so became the downfall of Adam, the blimp, acid rock, and Robert Plant. Sorry, ROBERT PLANT. Yep, it’s all her fault.

  • Olivia

    My dear George are you referring to my post when you mention CAPs??? So, can you explain what you just said above? Not sure if you are saying ROBERT PLANT’s writing/melodies aren’t up to par? Patty should not take full responsibility? And are you somehow comparing Patty to Mary? So, God (Robert Plant) chose Mary (Patty) to have his baby (Ohio)??? BTW, I know it IS her song (her lyrics) and he put the melody to it Look, as you said, God made apples and oranges and we aren’t all going to like them both or either. So TIRED (yes I am using all caps) of Patty fans attacking those that dare to not like her music. BTW I do like some of it. This song is just “draggy” and monotone.

  • George

    It’s a free country. You don’t have to like Patty Griffin music, some or all of it. There’s no attack or hunting season. No disappointment where Ohio is concerned – as I understand she wrote lyrics and music. He set the mood, by collaborating on arrangement, and river-like tone of the song. I’m still a Patty fan and if she wants to change her music I’m up for the challenge. Change is a pretty hard thing sometimes. I think one of her songs ends like “change, change, change, and the dog bites down a little harder.”
    Also would like to add I admire Robert Plant and am still a fan. Never been anything but. Have a good one, Olivia.

  • Olivia

    Fair enough George. As long as you are STILL a Robert fan. (excuse my CAPs). To each his own.

  • George

    STILL a Plant fan. Hope you still like SOME of Patty’s music. Starting to like the CAP’S thing actually. And what about that whole Muslim/Christian/Jewish thing going on in the Middle East? Talk about tired. Plantys need to school them on the concept of “Co-Exist”.

  • Olivia

    Wow George. How did we get on the Middle East subject? I think you and I and God know there will NEVER be rest or co-existing amongst them. BTW were you a fan of the No Quarter Unleaded Concert/CD/DVD? I think I absolutely LOVED that music and the arrangements.

  • VIKE

    Patty is a once in a lifetime talent. Look at the nightsky and you’ll see so many stars but only a precious few shine bright and give the night its luster. So it is with Ms. Griffin. It starts with her voice – a force of nature and a grace of time so pure, so genuine that it haunts as it entices; it soothes as it riles; it provides a meaning that goes behind words, beyond the obvious, beyond ourselves. Then her lyrics – she has written the one song about poverty that rings truer than anything I’ve ever heard in modern music: “Poor Man’s House”. I could go on and on but there’s no reason to. Listen to her – you’ll see what I’m talking about. Plant? His Day is Done – let her have her Day. Don’t latch onto her like a Yesterday Lothario, looking for your next Real American Fix.

  • George

    I don’t look forward to anyone’s day to be over, but I have described Griffin as a force of nature in a conversation about music with a friend. It takes that level of praise for people like us, I guess and yes, some probably think it’s pathetic, but I’m pretty sure Vike and me are going to feel like the luckiest people around tomorrow when every strand has come undone on that C.D. package. Poor Man’s House is a favorite of mine too, but let’s face it, what can she do wrong, in her fan’s eyes. The pop artist Jasper Johns once was given a critique that he could present a can of beer as a piece of art and the art world would buy into it. He made a bronze casting of a beer can and in his brilliant painterly style, painted the casting. Of course today it is considered a masterwork by him. Then he made a casting of teeth which he titled ” The Critic Sees”, implying that if you spend all of your time condemning things you shut down the objectivity that allows for growth. Even appreciation . She’s not supposed to make music for her father’s tribute albumn a head banger fest. She didn’t. She didn’t color her relationship with him peachy. She loved him. I heard it, I felt it. Much respect. Much gratitude. Much in awe of this work.