NEW YORK — When Patty Griffin’s parents received the “Man From La Mancha” original cast soundtrack from Patty’s older sister, little did they know that, decades later, they’d be featured singing a song from the record, “Impossible Dream,” on their daughter’s fourth studio-released album.
“They loved it,” Griffin says in a call from her home in Austin, Tex. “So I would hear them singing different songs from it, growing up, and I knew that record was important to them.”
The song perfectly embodies the more personal flavor of Griffin’s latest album — appropriately named after the track — as well as the political one. The singer-songwriter suggests the characters in the musical and the people living in the Sixties were virtually searching for the same thing.
“There were all kinds of people trying to formulate a different future at that time,” she says, “and there’s a lot on [the soundtrack] about trying to create a different reality.
“I think that’s how a lot of people who have no control over the politics of the world feel right now, like a helpless, discouraged feeling that kind of creeps up on you, as it certainly did with me.”
Her political concerns join songs of home and family, friends and love on “Impossible Dream,” released last month and certainly Griffin’s most personal album to date. “This one is really more about me and my personal confusions,” she admits. Griffin will be promoting the album at Town Hall here tonight and Saturday night.
But, having turned 40 in March, the Maine native is revealing her full colors, both in her music and in her style. On stage, rather than slicking herself up in the sex-soaked fashions so popular today, she often sticks to more classic looks of the Twenties and Thirties.
“People have told me for years that I look like an old movie actress, so I never really fit into this sort of modern look. I don’t look good in little lacy, hot pink things,” she laughs.
Griffin turns to Austin-based designer Jyl Kutche for many of her stage frocks, and to Boudoir Queen, an Austin boutique, for some of her “old, antique” accessories. “I try to use a lot of local people,” she says. “You can really get some unique stuff and you can work one-on-one with them.”
This route also allows her to get the custom handiwork she prefers. “I really like simplicity, and with older clothes, there’s just a lot more care [taken] in general,” she explains. “An average person [at that time] would have a dress that was really meticulously well made because they were only going to have three of them.
“I love the fact that somebody’s hands have made an item of clothing,” she continues. “There’s some soul in that.”
— Lisa Kelly