Mother of God
Written and performed by Patty Griffin.
I told myself that I’d write about “Mother of God” because we have tickets to see Patty Griffin (and the Avett Brothers, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Richard Shindell, etc.) at the Appel Farm Festival this Saturday (thanks to Paddy and Jamie for the tickets). Truth be told, this song’s been running round my mind for many months. Griffin’s singing and the ethereal, yet muscular longing of the music persists in memory and functions like the pebble in the oyster agitating its way to something beautiful. The song sounds less like a performance and more a woman talking aloud, as if hearing her own words will help her find some peace and understanding. Far from a mere pop song or simple singer-songwriter confessional, “Mother of God” struggles to understand family and faith, life and purpose, and it avoids easy answers. The song evolves into a type of prayer, an offering of hope in the face of near certain futility.
Griffin builds the song around two women: a mother and the titular Mother of God. The singer/narrator, perhaps the eldest boy in the family or perhaps another sibling, is the third character in a kind of familial trinity, three separate, yet unified characters. Points of view fluctuate, the three main characters conflate and, though we follow a certain story and timeline, in many ways, the song views the same women and same relationship from different viewpoint. It is a song as cubist painting.