Gifted indie singer-songwriter and critical darling Patty Griffin, whose late night television appearances are few and far between, debuted on CBS’s The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson for the first and only time to deliver “Move Up,” a traditional gospel song taken from her seventh LP and first gospel album, Downtown Church.
Released in January 2010, Downtown Church was recorded in the nearly 200-year-old Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and produced by fellow independent country artist Buddy Miller.
Miss Griffin was exposed to relatively few gospel songs during her childhood, so the fact that her record label convinced her to record the project was nothing short of amazing. The seeds of Downtown Church may have been sown when the singer performed a 2008 duet with the legendary, soul stirring Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers on “Waiting for My Child to Come Home,” released on the various artists compilation Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.
Though most often seen with an acoustic guitar, this time Miss Griffin, sporting a multi-colored African-inspired mosaic dress, opted for a simple percussive shaker, letting her rhythm section do the talking.
Featuring drums, electric guitar, stand-up bass, Wurlitzer organ, and two female background singers (one on tambourine), “Move Up” certainly had a boogie, rhythm and blues feel to it. In fact, the guitarist and bassist both provided brief, foot-shakin’ solos.
The lyrics could be applied to many scenarios, even extending to an old spiritual sung by slaves. One verse was especially delivered with an impassioned plea:
“One of these mornings, and it won’t be very long, they’re gonna look for me down here, and I believe I’m gone on home…I’m gonna see my lovin’ mother, I’m gonna see my father, too, I’m gonna walk around in glory and spread the news…Well all my life I want to know, is why my Jesus loved me so, I’m gonna move on up in glory, move on up in glory, after ‘while.”
“Move Up” should get people, even non-believers, excited and into the spirit. If you’re not movin’ something, no explanation is possible. Miss Griffin sounds like she has been singing gospel music for years, and hopefully she will pursue this creative rebirth further.
For gospel songs with a similar feel, check out Elvis Presley’s versions of “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot,” “Run On,” and “So High.” The latter two were featured on 1967’s How Great Thou Art LP, while “Swing Down” was originally recorded for 1960’s His Hand In Mine and then eight years later in a superior, greater sounding fidelity version for The Trouble with Girls soundtrack.
Listening to Miss Griffin perform “Move Up” is sure to make you want to purchase the song and/or complete album. Indeed, Amazon.com users have rated Downtown Church with 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. Check out the video link at the top of this page for further concrete proof.
Incidentally, Downtown Church charted Top 40 on Billboard‘s Pop Album chart and went all the way to No. 1 on both the Christian and Folk charts, respectively. Downtown Church also won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album, becoming Miss Griffin’s best-selling album thus far.
The songwriter subsequently joined forces with former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and his Band of Joy, singing on roughly 60% of their self-titled album as well as the accompanying tour across America. Miller continued his association with Miss Griffin by co-producing the project.
Miss Griffin and Plant later experienced a brief fling, and various media outlets published speculative, ultimately inaccurate reports claiming the pair were seen wearing wedding rings and had tied the knot somewhere in Texas. Regardless of Miss Griffin’s romantic pursuits, Downtown Church presents the singer baring her soul with outstanding, sublime results.
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! Remember the Pointer Sisters? The African American girl group effortlessly blended sweet, gospel-laden harmonies on a plethora of pop nuggets during the ’70s and ’80s including “Yes We Can Can,” “Fairytale,” “Slow Hand,” and “I’m So Excited.” Ruth, the eldest Pointer, bares her soul in a far-reaching conversation [“The Gospel Roots of The Pointer Sisters: Childhood Memories with…”], discussing strict parents who refused to let her wear makeup, jewelry, or attend dances, what it was like to attend a Sunday service at West Oakland Church of God, singing hymns to the congregation, whether the trio has considered cutting a gospel album, getting pregnant at age 19, and why she disagrees with the theory that women tend to marry a suitor resembling their father.
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© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2010, 2012. All rights reserved. An earlier version of the Patty Griffin television review debuted in this column on Feb. 10, 2010. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without first contacting the author. Do not copy or paste the article text—please share the URL instead. Headlines with links are also acceptable. Posting any links on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, or Google Plus is sincerely appreciated.