& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & atty Griffin is the best singer-songwriter you've probably never heard of. Known more for songs covered by Emmylou Harris and the Dixie Chicks, Griffin has come a long way from Cambridge's coffeehouses to quietly build an impressive catalog.
Children Run-ning Through is her most confident record yet. Although iTunes calls it "Folk," the CD ranges from gospel to blues to R & amp;B; it's mostly mellow, but she does let things rip on a couple tracks. While it's more produced than 1000 Kisses or her 1996 debut Living With Ghosts, the strings and horns don't overwhelm these songs -- Griffin's voice is left to carry the load, and her words, as always, paint beautiful little pictures of basic human dignity.
You can see Griffin live as she'll play Portland, Seattle and Boise starting March 18. (Sorry, no Spokane dates.)
-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.
DOWNLOAD: "Burgundy Shoes"
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN
The Good, the Bad and the Queen
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & hese days, Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) doesn't so much make as curate albums. The Good, the Bad and the Queen again finds him in the captain's seat. Helped by a superstar crew (bassist Paul Simonon from the Clash, guitarist Simon Tong from the Verve, drummer Tony Allen from Fela Kuti's band, and hip-hop/pop producer Dangermouse), Albarn's latest effort satisfies even as it dodges expectations.
The combination of Simonon (dub reggae master), Allen (godfather of Afrobeat), and Dangermouse (producer behind Earth's 2006 anthem, "Crazy") suggests a dense, bombastic rhythm section, but that's not the case. Opener "History Song" casts spider-web guitars, barely-there drums and workmanlike bong-hit bass in a skeletal mix; Albarn, meanwhile, sounds just this side of catatonic. Possibly due to Dangermouse's phantom influence, there is real character here -- the melancholy allure of crackles and echoes is beautifully English and winningly hummable. Most of the album is this spot-on, striking just the right balance between slow-suicide resignation and pop smarts.