Patty Griffin Sings About the Underground Railroad on “Ohio”

Patty Griffin will release her seventh album American Kid (2013), her first with record company New West, on May 7. Below is “Ohio,” the first single from the upcoming album. The song, like the folk song “Banks of the Ohio,” is about the river more than the state. But unlike the old murder ballad, Griffin’s dreamlike song is about the Underground Railroad and people escaping slavery to go north.

The Ohio River borders the southern border of what was then the free state of Ohio, and it is estimated that 40,000 escaped slaves went through the Underground Railroad in Ohio to escape to freedom in Canada. Griffin has explained that her song “Ohio” was inspired by something she read “in a Toni Morrison novel” a few years ago. Based on the lyrics, my guess is that she is referring to Morrison’s Beloved. Check it out.

That voice you hear accompanying Griffin (and the man you see in the video) is legendary Led Zeppelin front-man Robert Plant. Griffin helped on Plant’s Band of Joy album, and Plant here also helped arrange “Ohio.” Luther Dickinson (guitar) and Cody Dickinson (drums) from North Mississippi Allstars also perform on the album.

American Kid features songs inspired by Griffin’s father, who passed away in 2011. As someone who has every one of Griffin’s CD’s, I look forward to this new one.

What do you think of “Ohio”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Patty Griffin Releasing “Servant of Love”
  • Patty Griffin Sings “Don’t Let Me Die In Florida” Live
  • Song of the Day: Shooter Jennings and Patty Griffin “Wild and Lonesome”
  • Alison Krauss Previews New Album “Windy City”
  • A Hymn for Paris: “J’irai La Voir Un Jour”
  • Mary Queen of Scots and Mary Queen of Arkansas
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)