Impossible Dream retains the intimate, "live" recording quality of 2002's 1,000 Kisses, especially on tracks like "Florida," where you can almost smell the cigarette smoke Patty Griffin sings about. But it also emits a melancholy signal from somewhere deeper than live, a hazy place lined with the shelves of memory. "Mother of God" and "Kite" are spare, piano-led pieces recalling a life's decisions or a child's emotions on a single summer day. Griffin's gorgeous vocals make their atmosphere touchable. But Impossible Dream also benefits from the production of Austin pal Craig Ross. He deftly clarifies the album's stylistic contours, but is careful to cultivate them inside the album's overall pensiveness. "Standing" is a deconstructed gospel number that sidles into something a little more sultry, while "Love Throw a Line" starts Impossible Dream with a slight Texas shuffle. Guests like guitarist Doug Lancio and Emmylou Harris and Buddy and Julie Miller -- who contributed supporting vocals throughout -- also help shade the album's more robust material. Harris seems like Griffin's vocal muse for the folk build of "Useless Desires," which includes some lovely, swirling violin work from Lisa Germano. "Say goodbye to the old street that never cared much for you anyway," Griffin sings in bittersweet farewell to a hometown. And then, a little prescient joke. "Weekend Edition has this town way overrated." Germano returns for the quietly intense relationship meditation "Top of the World." As the song fades from its aching climax, it's replaced by a scratchy kitchen table recording of "Impossible Dream," performed with TLC by Griffin's parents. The moment intensifies the feeling that this LP is Griffin's greatest journey of personal reflection. Her memories, longing, regrets, and desires define an album that's as listenable as it is meaningful.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus