raising their voices

patty griffin.

patty griffin.

The day after the Use Your Voice Tour opened in the decidedly non-wintry Florida climate of St. Petersburg, Patty Griffin seemed content if not encouraged.

“We’re having a great time,” she remarked. “There is a lot of love out there.”

The love, in this instance, is two fold. Much of it comes from collaborating with her co-billed songsmiths – fiddler, vocalist and Nickel Creek alum Sara Watkins and new generation folk champion Anais Mitchell. Then there is also the mission that gives the Use Your Voice Tour its name – specifically, an alliance with the League of Women Voters that hopes to help encourage participation in elections among female voters.

First, there is the sisterhood and the music Griffin is creating with Watkins and Mitchell. The teaming recalls the last time Griffin performed in Lexington – a 2008 outing with Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin. Like that earlier performance, the trio was augmented by a celebrity guitarist (the earlier show featured Buddy Miller where Saturday’s bill will boast David Pulkingham, who has played Lexington previously with Alejandro Escovedo) with the three headliners swapping songs and stories.

“They are really, really brilliant,” Griffin said of Watkins and Mitchell. “I think Sara is one of the most beautiful singers I’ve ever heard in my life on top of being a pretty incredible instrumentalist. Her songs are sort of otherworldly. People say that a lot about singers and their songs, but to me, her sense of timing and placement of words is so incredibly unique, delicate and beautiful. Anais, to me, is one of the finest lyric writers that we have out there right now. I think she is really outstanding that way. Within the folk tradition, she is a leader.”

anais Mitchell.

anais Mitchell.

The feeling turns out to be more than mutual. The Vermont-based Mitchell, who opens a fully staged theatrical presentation Off Broadway  this spring of music from her 2010 album Hadestown, sites Griffin’s 1996 demo-style debut album Living with Ghosts, as a pivotal piece of inspiration.

Living with Ghosts is sort of lodged deep in my psyche,” Mitchell said. “When I first started writing songs, I was very influenced by that album. I love how its sound was so stripped back. So it’s so wonderful to get to hear Patty every night and, even more than that, to get to sing with her and play with her.”

Though Griffin’s recordings – specifically newer works like 2013’s American Kid and 2015’s Servant of Love – have unfolded with an almost orchestral ambience, the overtly acoustic setting of the Use Your Voice Tour reflects the folk roots all three headliners share.

“I think it is pretty much home for all of us,” Griffin said. “I’m always gunning to get out there and do things that are a little more stripped down. I love doing it this way. There are things that are actually quite cool sounding with everybody chipping in on different things they don’t normally play. We even we’re having some fun trying to figure out how to become a drummer when we have to.”

“I’m always so overwhelmed by the power of just the human voice and very basic accompaniment,” Mitchell added. “I think part of it is just being able to be a storyteller and how to focus entirely on the story in that kind of a setting.”

There is also the more outwardly dutiful aspect to the Use Your Voice Tour, namely its hope of encouraging women to participate more vigorously in the selection of their elected officials. Griffin stressed, however, such a crusade is entirely non-partisan in its intent.

“We want you to come out and vote,” she said. “Whatever your point of view is at this moment, share it – or at least participate in the democracy with us and let’s see what happens.

“The fact that we’re doing this in a big presidential election year is not necessarily an accident, but it’s just a matter of timing. To me, a major, major deficit in voter turnout is in local elections. Single women will turn out for a presidential election a little more than they will for a local one. Local elections really affect issues that have to do with single women – for example, the public school system. We really want single working moms’ opinions on that and how that should work within our communities.

“We want everyone to feel welcome at our shows – male, female, all walks of life, whatever your political affiliation.”

As for life after the Use Your Voice Tour, Griffin remains open, relishing a sense of chance that seems to go hand-in-hand with her music.

“One of the things about my job that is awesome is that I never feel like I know what I’m doing. There are so many infinite things about being in this kind of work. There is such variety of music. It’s really all comes from the same source, I believe, but there are so many ways of expressing it. It’s endlessly inspiring, so I feel like I’m always learning even though I’m always slightly behind the game.”

Use Your Voice Tour featuring Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. Tickets: $32, $38, $45. Call: (859) 257-4929 or go to etix.com.

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