Renowned lost albums have always held a certain fascination, the sort of thing that prompts critics, fans and fanatics to uncover the cobwebs shrouding any music stashed away in the darker recesses of historical legend. The Beach Boys' "Smile," Dylan's "Great White Wonder" and The Who's "Lifehouse" provide but a few tempting examples of what might be the proverbial mother lode. Those examples, however, offer barely a hint of the elusive offerings sought by collectors over the decades. So while it might not be considered as legendary a find as any of the aforementioned treasures, Patty Griffin's long lost "Silver Bell" does in some ways provide a similar lure.
The back story offers explanation as to why that's so. Intended as the follow-up to Griffin's sophomore set "Flaming Red," "Silver Bell" found Griffin to be a young artist still determining her direction. At the time of its originally scheduled release, it was shelved due to shake-ups in the record company hierarchy, making its delay more frustrating still. Yet even at that early stage, her furtive vocals dominated the album overall.
The rural ramble of Truth #2 (featuring harmony vocals from early pal Emmylou Harris) and the rousing strum of Boston contrast with the rumble and crunch of Perfect White Girls and the heady rock of Silver Bell, even as the languid drift of Sooner Or Later, What You Are and One More Girl help keep matters on an even keel. Griffin even channels her inner Joni Mitchell on Mother of God, a song that suggests she harbors a frustrated folkie residing within.
While several of these songs would be re-recorded for future releases, this ill-fated mishap begged to be rectified. Happily, it has, and the delay of a dozen years or so hasn't diminished its appeal. Consider it one of Griffin's essential efforts even now.