A third of the way into her show Friday night at the House of Blues Patty Griffin started the song “Rain” and then it all fell apart. “What a train wreck,” she said with a laugh as she tried to figure out what exactly was going wrong.
The venerated singer-songwriter, and former Bostonian, explained that she hadn’t played the fan favorite in a while but after another false start, the third time was the charm.
Aside from that endearing fumble — which the rapt crowd cheered her through — there was nothing about Griffin’s superb 90-minute set that could be defined as a wreck. Except maybe the emotional wreckage she excavated in some of her most sharply observed tunes.
A terrific hostess throughout, balancing reflection and humor, Griffin gave the crowd — many of whom were seated in chairs on the normally standing-room-
only floor — extra props for making it out not only in the pouring rain but on a night the Bruins were playing in the playoffs.
Both backed by a gifted trio of multi-instrumentalists — John Deaderick, David Pulkingham, and Craig Ross — and in solo interludes on guitar and piano Griffin dug into her superb new album, “American Kid.”
Griffin moved easily through her favored styles. Swinging from classic country to rueful pop to heart-rending gospel interludes, she conjured sepia-toned visions of men drinking in Scollay Square after the war and a lone, wild dog, restlessly roaming the highway, all in her inimitably piercing voice, at once girlish and earthy, and a seeming repository of essential truths.
Written during a period in which Griffin knew she would soon lose her father, the songs were both celebration and eulogy and she told family tales between songs, further illuminating his, and by extension, her own spirit. An early favorite was the rip-snorting “Please Don’t Let Me Die in Florida,” a plea made by her staunch New Englander dad after visiting the Sunshine State.
Another gem was the fantastically funny saloon song “Get Ready Marie,” sung from the point of view of her grandfather to her grandmother on their wedding night.
She didn’t ignore her back catalog, however, giving an impassioned reading of the gospel tune “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song),” the low-down swampy stomper “Flaming Red,” and the keening “Carry Me.”