The title for Say What You Will, the new EP by local singer-songwriter Hope Griffin, comes from the chorus of lead song, “Hanging in the Balance.” And that track, like the entire six-song collection, is as much about the orchestration of Griffin’s voice in collaboration with the instrumentation, as it is about the lyrics. “If you find yourself on a winding road and you’re still uncertain of which way to go, then there’s probably something you should know,” she sings in one clear, still moment. “Time will give and time will take, so make a move instead of standing in place.” At points Griffin’s voice is backed up (perhaps by her own double lyric), and tender strings offer poignant accents, but it’s the low, almost whispery bowed bass that’s the happiest surprise.
There’s an Americana feel to Griffin’s songs — parts country, blues and folk. “Subtle Riddles,” a duet with Dave Powell has an especially dusty Western feel. Here, too, the spare-but-choice string arrangements feel more classical than rootsy, and that approach gives the song a delicate polish. But it’s the fiery end to the track, and the height to which Griffin can take her voice, that brings on the goosebumps.
“A Fisherman’s Life,” a sweetly lilting waltz, could be a traditional tune, passed down by immigrants from the British Isles. It might also be inspired by Griffin’s youth spent in Anchorage, Alaska. Paired with the eerie, atmospheric “Dry Land,” a story begins to emerge about the singer-songwriter’s influences. Surely her songs are inspired by nature — her voice rings of bird calls and high vistas; she can morph from breathy to velvety in the span of a note.
With its slow build, organic percussion, fog horn low notes and aching melody, “Dry Land” is a perfect platform for Griffin’s remarkable vocal. It’s also a stand out offering from the EP.bAnd while the harmonica-spiked “Singin’ Sad Blues,” with its formidable runs and roadhouse grit is probably a crowd pleaser at live shows, “Feels like Home,” the album’s final track, seems more in keeping with Griffin’s style. Expansive and emotive, it ebbs and flows with masterful dynamics. Looking for an original wedding song? This could be the one.
Hope Griffin plays an album release show in the lounge of Isis Restaurant & Music Hall on Friday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m. $8.