The guitars that open "Rider of Days," the first single from folk giant Patty Griffin's forthcoming album Servant of Love, take a moment to come into focus. They swim up from silence and surface just in time for Griffin's unmistakable voice to arrive and settle over them. Everything about "Rider of Days" is a slow burn, in the same way a victory lap is taken slower than the rest of the race. Griffin doesn't need to hustle — she's a songwriter at the top of her already formidable game, and her voice, here in the more reserved half of her register, is as affecting as ever.
Every Patty Griffin song arrives fully and perfectly formed, which is perhaps her greatest gift. She doesn't require explanation or context, and she doesn't have material that requires lead-up to enjoy. Her songwriting is honest and compassionate no matter the subject, her voice uniquely compelling and her guitar work unfailingly evocative. "Rider of Days" is more impressionistic than literal, but Griffin's deceptively simple lyrics locate the emotional core of her bicycle-riding narrator. With that voice as a guide, no traveler can wander too far.
Servant of Love comes out September 25 on Thirty Tigers, and Patty Griffin is on tour this fall.
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