Nanci Griffith is a singer-songwriter from Texas who blends country and pop
and sets her stories of personal loss and failure
in an oppressive universe, worthy of Kafka's novels.
There's a Light Beyond These Woods (Philo, 1978) is the work of a
romantic soul, a work that is consistently
tender, nostalgic (There's a Light Beyond These Woods), touching.
Poet in My Window (Philo, 1982) features more complex compositions
that tell more complex stories, starting with the opening tryptich
(the waltzing lullabye Neon And Waltzes,
the gentle pensive Heart of a Miner,
the stately Julie Anne) and peaking with the
anthemic singalongs Wheels and
Waltzing with the Angels (reminiscent of Kenny Rogers' Gambler).
Once in a Very Blue Moon (Philo, 1984), one of her best,
is evocative and metaphysical, dreadful and realistic (Daddy Said,
Ballad of Robin Hunter-Smith).
The commercial breakthrough came with
The Last of the True Believers (Philo, 1986) and its
Love at the Five & Dime.
Griffith resorted to traditional country arrangements for
Lone Star State of Mind (MCA, 1987). The hit from this album was
Julie Gold's From a Distance, but the real highlights are
Ford Econoline, Cold Hearts Closed Minds,
Lone Star State of Mind and Trouble in the Fields
Griffith then turned to relationships with
Little Love Affairs (MCA, 1988), that includes I Knew Love and
Anyone Can Be Somebody's Fool,
and Storms (MCA, 1989), that includes
If Wishes Were Changes and Drive-in Movies.
Her progression towards the melody and arrangements of pop music culminated
in Late Night Grande Hotel (MCA, 1991), that features strings and
catchy refrains. The songs tend to be more subdued and bluesier.
Thematic unity lends its the feeling of a soundtrack for a road movie
(Hometown Streets, It's Just Another Morning Here).
Griffith returned to her country roots with
Other Voices Other Rooms (Elektra, 1993), a collection of covers, an
idea that will be replicated by Other Voices Too (Elektra, 1996).
Flyer (Elektra, 1994) and
Blue Roses from the Moons (Elektra, 1997) were mostly disappointing.
The Dust Bowl Symphony (Elektra, 1999) revisits some of her songs
with help from a symphony orchestra.
On Clock Without Hands (Elektra, 2001) Griffith seems to have lost even
her skills with words.
Hearts in Mind (2004) was marked by the terrorist attacks of 2001 and
by the George W Bush wars, but she fared better with the humble
Last Train Home.
Ruby's Torch (2006) is devoted to torch ballads, mostly by other composers.
The Loving Kind (2009) and
Intersection (2012) were her last albums.
The unusually uplifting and optimistic The Loving Kind (2009) was
followed by the gloomy Intersection (2012). It is telling that the best
songs from the latter are a cover and one of her old songs revisited,
It's Just Another Morning Here (1991). These albums mixed private
events with a renewed (and sometimes preachy) sociopolitical interest.
Griffith died in 2021 at the age of 68.