“A young Carson McCullers, or maybe Harper Lee with a Martin guitar. Her songs sparkled like carnival grass on a 1950′s East Texas Midday.” That glowing description by the inestimable Tom Russell evokes the freshness that he felt when seeing an emerging Nanci Griffith perform at a folk festival. She was born today in 1953.
Singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith was born in Seguin, Texas, USA. Raised in Austin, Nanci took up the guitar as a child and had graduated to writing and performing in her early teens, continuing to play live whilst studying for her Degree.
Teaching in Austin and playing local club gigs (including a residency at the Hole in the Wall bar), Nanci met and married fellow singer-songwriter Eric Taylor in 1976 and he would appear on her 1978 self-funded debut album, “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods.”
It took four years for a belated follow-up to emerge in the shape of “Poet In My Window”, which saw Griffith play at folk clubs across the USA to promote, having quit the classroom. Gaining a deal via Rounder Records, Nanci would relocate to Nashville and release “Once In a Very Blue Moon” and Grammy-nominated “The Last of The True Believers” with backing from her new band, The Blue Mountain Orchestra.
Moving on to MCA Records, she continued to veer between country and folk, with 1987′s “Lone Star State of Mind” including a cover of “From A Distance” that would later be further popularised by both Bette Midler and Cliff Richard.
Further attempts at making a mainstream commercial impact saw AOR-styled releases such as 1989′s “Storms” and “Late Night Grande Hotel” two years later, before rootsier efforts such as “Other Voices, Other Rooms” and “Flyer” redefined her country folk template.
Having established a following in Europe, Nanci travelled further afield to the likes of Angola and Kosovo and involved herself in war veteran and anti-landmine organisations, marking time with 2001′s “Clock Without Hands”. 2004′s “Hearts in Mind” ruminated on the human cost of war, before covers-heavy, “Ruby’s Torch” saw her in chanteuse mode with string accompaniment.
2009 then ended a four year wait for new Nanci compositions, with the arrival of “The Loving Kind”, including a diverse range of songs. A tribute to her mentor, Townes Van Zandt sat beside observations about former Presidents George W Bush and Lyndon Baines Johnson, plus an account of the unsafe conviction of an executed prisoner – a long way from her previous off-putting “kookiness”.
And bringing the story up to date, January 2012 saw Nanci at the top of the UK country chart with her twentieth long-player, “Intersection.” Recorded at her home in Nashville, the intersection in question is defined in her lyrics as the one between “hopes, dreams and fears” and the subject matter covered ranges from personal loss to the economic downturn of her home nation.