Photo Source: AP

I have added more details and obits as well as a great show from Austin City Limits. I have also added the stand-alone items I posted this week.

As I have said elsewhere, she usually flew just below the radar for most people, but she and others have consistently proven that it is possible to fundamentally change hearts and minds without mainstream support. JP

13 August 2021 | Jem Aswad | Variety

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died Friday morning in Nashville, a rep for her management company has confirmed to Variety. No caused of death was announced; she was 68.

“It was Nanci’s wish that no further formal statement or press release happen for a week following her passing,” Gold Mountain Entertainment said in a statement. Griffith survived cancer twice in the 1990s.

While a powerful singer in her own right, Griffith was arguably better known for her songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” (which was a country hit for Kathy Mattea) and “Outbound Plane” (ditto Suzy Bogguss) and as a collaborator:

She recorded duets with Emmylou Harris John Prine, Willie Nelson, the Chieftans, Darius Rucker, and many others over the course of her four-decade career. Her Grammy was for an album consisting of classic country covers, “Other Voices, Other Rooms.”

Yet that circle of collaborators speaks both to her vast influence and the respect she commanded in the country, folk, Americana, singer-songwriter and other multi-hyphenate musical communities — she called her style “folkabilly.” Possessed of a sweet yet seasoned voice and an incisive songwriting style, she recorded some 18 studio albums, beginning in 1978 with the independently released “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods,” recorded when she was 24.

In fact, Griffith’s genre-spanning style led to challenges from the beginning of her career. Born in Seguin, Texas in 1953, she began playing clubs in nearby Austin as a teenager and worked as a schoolteacher before her musical career took off. Initially primarily a folk singer — a style that was hardly at the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s — she was eventually deeply embraced by the Nashville community and made the city her home for many years. However, she was not equally embraced by country radio, and eventually worked in a hybrid style.

She began releasing albums regularly in 1982 with “Poet in My Window,” and they followed at a steady clip for nearly 30 years. She moved to Nashville in the middle of the decade and signed with MCA, releasing the first of four albums for the label, “Lone Star State of Mind,” in 1987.

She scored country hits with Julie Gold’s “From a Distance” (later a hit for Bette Midler) and “I Knew Love,” yet consistent radio success proved elusive. Ventures into more commercial territory met with mixed success, and she returned to her folk-country roots upon joining Elektra Records in 1992 — indeed, she won a Grammy with “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” her first of five albums for the label.

She continued to tour widely and release albums up until “Intersections,” recorded with her longtime band members Pete and Maura Kennedy, which was recorded in her Nashville home and released in 2012 on the indie Proper Records.

Regardless of Griffith’s request for a week’s delay before formal statements, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young paid tribute shortly after her death was confirmed on Friday:

“Nanci Griffith was a master songwriter who took every opportunity to champion kindred spirits, including Vince Bell, Elizabeth Cook, Iris DeMent, Julie Gold, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Eric Taylor and Townes Van Zandt,,” he wrote. “Her voice was a clarion call, at once gentle and insistent. Her brilliant album ‘The Last of the True Believers’ is a template for what is now called Americana music, and her Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms is a compelling guide to 20th-century folk songs. Nanci offered gifts that no one else could give.”

Not sure where this originated but it is interesting…

In Sing Out!, singer/songwriter Tom Russell related that he first encountered Nanci Griffith at a folk festival in 1976. One evening around a campfire, with people spread out on a grassy hill into the darkness, guitars and wine being passed around, a gruff voice yelled from the darkness, “Let her play one.” From the edge of the campfire light came a waif-like young girl. She began to play and sing in a voice Russell said possessed “a wild, fragile beauty.” When she finished and the echo of the applause drifted away, the voice spoke again: “That was Nanci Griffith. She writes songs.”


In the contemporary music world, where the drum machine is the musical backbone, dancing is the answer to social problems, and lyrics speak only of vacuous, pubescent angst, Nanci Griffith stands at the edge of light. At a time when popular music is, as Detroit News music critic Susan Whitall observed, “bankrupt of inspiration,” Griffith offers songs of love, stories of broken dreams, observations of people living lives that are neither heroic nor pathetic. “The people residing within the lines of her songs,” Connoisseur reviewer Jared Lawrence Burden stated plainly, “are the salt of the American earth.” According to Stephen Holden of the New York Times, Griffith “sings lyrics redolent of the American landscape.”


Southern literature and folk music inform Griffith’s vision of this landscape. Born in Austin, Texas, in 1954, she grew up reading various writers and listening to jazz, folk, and country. But more than others, the fiction of Eudora Welty, the voice of folk singer Carolyn Hester, and the songs of country singer Loretta Lynn imbued her with a passion for struggling human relationships, dreams, and a sense of place; with, in the opinion of Peter Nelson of Rolling Stone, a “forthrightness and clarity of heart”; and with, as Griffith explained to Holden, a desire to tell “incredibly vivid stories that hit their subjects right on the nail’s head.”

The combination of these influences has given rise to a unique Griffith style, which she terms “folkbilly,” and which the New York Times defined as a “songwriting style steeped in the rich mixture of Southern literary tradition, folk music, and country.” But Griffith is not just a songwriter, “she writes songs,” and her songs are stories. Russell explained the difference: “Nanci’s musical roots are based in folk music, but her writing style always carried evidence of a prose writer’s skills. She has a poet’s eye and a novelist’s sense of time and place.” Griffith told James Ring Adams of the Wall Street Journal that the venerable Nashville songwriter Harlan Howard, with whom she studies, said to her: “You’re a writer. You’re a writer first. You just happen to be a writer who can sing.”


Born 1954 in Austin, Texas; daughter of Griff (a printer and publisher) and Ruelene (in real estate) Griffith. Education: Education major at University of Texas at Austin.


Began playing bars in Austin, Texas, at age 14; taught kindergarten and first grade in Austin school system briefly during mid-1970s; first recorded for small Texas-based label, B.F. Deal, 1977; recording artist, 1978—; began musical collaboration with band Blue Moon Orchestra on third album, Once in a Very Blue Moon, 1985.


and realistic. Stereo Review’s Alanna Nash pointed out how Griffith crafts songs “with a more conversational feel, focusing more on character development than outside events.” Burden offered a panorama of the focus in her songs: “There is a black middle-class woman living in Houston, caught at a moment of pride and wonder about her marriage. There is a couple arguing at the airport about their lost love. In one of her strongest and best-known songs, ‘Love at the Five and Dime,’ two lovers’ romance is rekindled by memories of the days when they were courting.” The aim of these songs is not self-aggrandizement. In the best literary tradition, Griffith gives a voice to the inarticulate, the uninspired, the unheard. She told Paul Mather of Melody Maker, “I want to celebrate the South again.… There’s a dignity and beauty there that’s not often pointed out.”


Her celebration of life is not confined only to songs. When Griffith is not on the road, she writes stories and novels. So far she has completed one manuscript, Two of a Kind Heart, spanning three generations of a Texas family, and is working on a second, Love Wore a Halo Before the War. There is no division between the focus of Griffith’s songs and her prose. Often she turns a story into a song. “Love at the Five and Dime” was originally a short story while “Love Wore a Halo (Back Before the War),” which appears on Little Love Affairs, is drawn from the corresponding novel.


In concert, Griffith combines both mediums. She tells stories both through and between her songs. “Her stories,” Mather said, “are sometimes ordinary, sometimes magical, invariably enchanting.”
Some critics, however, do indeed consider Griffith’s individuality to be contrived. According to Nash, there are some who deem her material “overly sentimental and precious, as affected as the white cotton anklets she wears with the old-fashioned dresses she makes from prints bought on sale from Woolworth’s.” Griffith’s devoted following, on the contrary, feels she is more affective than affected. Mather explained: “Nanci Griffith gives us dreams . . . that affect because of, rather than despite, their traditionalism. There’s no urge here to reinvent, to introduce a new pop vocabulary, simply a pure joy in her own ability to make music that touches all those places that make you sigh and stuff.” In the end, perhaps all that matters is Griffith’s ability to step into the light and touch her audience. Burden observed: “As she talks, the young men in the audience are wishing that Nanci Griffith were their girlfriend, the older men are wishing she were their daughter, and the women are wishing that they, too, could play guitar and sing.”

Nanci Griffith – Austin City Limits 1989

Photo: Nanci Griffith in 2011. Photograph: Stephanie Paschal/REX/Shutterstock

Nanci Griffith’s career and activism lived just below the radar for most people, but she and others have consistently proven that it is possible to fundamentally change hearts and minds without mainstream support. JP

14 August 2021 | Mark Guarino | The Guardian

In 1993, when the world was enthralled with the new sound of grunge rock emanating from the Pacific north-west, Nanci Griffith quietly released a collection of cover songs intended to guide listeners to a network of singer-songwriters who were carrying the torch of American music.

Today, Other Voices, Other Rooms is considered a landmark album for not just introducing the songs of Woody Guthrie, Kate Wolf, Townes Van Zandt, Ralph McTell, Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine to a new generation of listeners, but for its communal and multi-generational spirit.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had already created the blueprint in 1972 with Will the Circle Be Unbroken? which brought together different generations of country, folk and bluegrass artists in the same studio. The ages on Griffith’s guest list didn’t stretch back as far. But Griffith, who died Friday at age 68, seemed on a mission to put down stakes surrounding a community of folk-based contemporaries who deserved celebrating for how far they had pushed the tradition.

There was also the case of good timing: bands like Uncle Tupelo and Freakwater were already paving the way for the alternative-country movement of that decade and Other Voices, Other Rooms became a precursor that helped widen the doors for larger audiences to hear artists like Van Zandt, Prine, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Iris DeMent, John Gorka, Vince Bell, Guy Clark and the Indigo Girls for the first time. Even Bob Dylan blessed the project, appearing in a cameo on harmonica. It would earn her a Grammy for best contemporary folk album.

On Friday, Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, called her a “master songwriter who took every opportunity to champion kindred spirits … Her voice was a clarion call, at once gentle and insistent.”

Griffith was unique because she largely remained steadfast in her commitment to the fundamentals of folk music, her first love. She presented an austere image onstage and in interviews and her voice had a plaintive quality that was unadorned but could transmit wanderlust as it could quiet despair. She was in many ways a woman out of time, sounding paired to an earlier era where regional traits like a gentle twang, revealing her Texas roots, were considered strengths, not something to smooth out and extinguish.

By the time artists like Gillian Welch and Iris Dement appeared on the scene, Griffith had been paving the way for nearly two decades. Today, you can hear the same idiosyncrasies in Elizabeth Cook and Margo Price.

Nanci Griffith in Nashville in 2011. Her songs remained distinctly southern, and were reflective of her small-town upbringing. Photograph: Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Nanci Griffith in Nashville in 2011. Her songs remained distinctly southern, and were reflective of her small-town upbringing. Photograph: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Her songs remained distinctly southern, and were reflective of her small-town upbringing, earning her comparisons not just to other songwriters but to short fiction writers like Eudora Welty. Love at the Five & Dime, a song made famous by Kathy Mattea, followed the life journey of a couple who met at teenagers at the counter of the local Woolworth’s store. “And they waltzed the aisles of the five and dime / And they’d sing / ‘Dance a little closer to me,’” she sang. Another song, There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret) managed to portray rural adolescence without sounding morose or sentimental.

Before Other Voices, Other Rooms, Griffith had signed to MCA Records and worked with people like rock producer Glyn Johns to reconstruct her sound within the realm of studio gloss.

That didn’t work because Griffith was at heart a traditional folk singer. She continued the confessional lyrics and political urgency of the Greenwich Village era with a twangy vocal style and the musical flourishes of traditional country.

She was born in Seguin, Texas, where her father sang in a barbershop quartet and worked as a graphic artist and her mother sold real estate. After settling in Austin, the family disbanded. Her parents divorced in 1960 and Griffith, then a teenager, drifted to find solace in the local coffeehouse circuit and began writing songs.

As a teenager she saw Carolyn Hester perform and became enamored with the Village-era veteran throughout her life, as she did with Odetta, the black songstress from the mid-century folk revival. The musical template for both women was simple, almost sparse, which created room for the raw intensity of their singing, a prescription for Griffith’s own work.

Unlike many of her contemporaries, Griffith’s own work was often bluntly political. She was an activist, and in her music she frequently conveyed the harshness of living among those not benefiting from the spoils of capitalism.

“We’re living in the age of communication / Where the only voices heard have money in their hands / Where greed has become a sophistication,” she sang in 1994’s Time of Inconvenience. “And if you ain’t got money / You ain’t got nothin’ in this land.” Another song, Hell No (I’m Not Alright), became an unexpected anthem in 2012 for protesters during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

That same year she told an interviewer that she was “too radical” for contemporary US politics. “I was angry about something,” she said about Hell No (I’m Not Alright). “Apparently everybody else was angry about the same thing.”

Her 2009 album The Loving Kind borrowed its title from Mildred Loving, a black woman whose 1967 supreme court case overturned laws banning interracial marriage and the song gestured to the same injustice directed at gay marriage, still a hot-button issue at the time. The album also skewered the death penalty, environmental degradation, and George W Bush, but never addressing him by name.

To do so was not Griffith’s style. Her poise, taste in collaborators and material, and the inviting gentleness in her singing never wavered. She was a singer resolute to the Woody Guthrie maxim that a guitar and song remained steady weapons to slay the worst of us.

Banks of the Pontchartrain

Nanci Griffith

I’m goin’ back where my garden blooms all year
Where the wintertime speaks softly in the fallin’ rain
I’m goin’ back to my green eyed lover there
And we will dance along the banks of old Lake Pontchartrain

Oh, I’ve grown pale beneath the streets of Montreal
Where the voices ring like bells in French-Canadian
And the rivers stand imprisoned till the thaws
I am alone at night and dream of my own Pontchartrain

Take me to the station, I am late to catch my southbound train
Oh, I’m gonna call my cousin Libby
She will be waiting by the tracks when I roll in
I’m gonna roll across America
Just to stand beside my Pontchartrain again

These old rails shake like thunder through the night
Soon I’ll have my green eyed lover’s arms to comfort me
Oh, I can see my cousin Libby by his side
Her hair will flow in waves like on Lake Pontchartrain

Take me to the station, I am late to catch my southbound train
Oh, I’m gonna call my cousin Libby
She will be waiting by the tracks when I roll in
I’m gonna roll across America
Just to stand beside my Pontchartrain again

I’m goin’ back where my garden blooms all year
Where the wintertime speaks softly in the fallin’ rain
I’m goin’ back to my green eyed lover there
And we will dance along the banks of old Lake Pontchartrain
Yes, we will dance along the banks of old Lake Pontchartrain
We will dance along the banks of old Lake Pontchartrain
And here comes the train

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith in Eric Tylor’s song “Deadwood, South Dakota” – 1988

Well, the good times scratched a laugh
From the lungs of the young men
In a Deadwood saloon, South Dakota afternoon
And the old ones by the door
With their heads on their chests,
They told lies about whiskey on a womans breath

Yes, and some tell the story of young Mickey Free
Who lost an eye to a buck deer in the Tongue River Valley
Oh and some tell the story of California Joe
Who sent word through the Black Hills
There was a mountain of gold

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets
And the sun she sets down on the trees
And they thank the Lord
For the land that they live in
Where the white man does as he pleases

Some flat-shoed fool from the East comes a-runnin’
With some news that he’d read in some St. Joseph paper
And it was Drinks all around cause the news he was tellin’
Was the one they called Crazy
Has been caught and been dealt with

And the Easterner he read the news from the paper
And the old ones moved closer so’s they could hear better
Well it says here that Crazy Horse
Was killed while trying to escape,
And that was some time last September,
It don’t give the exact date

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets
And the sun she sets down on the trees
And they thank the Lord
For the land that they live in
Where the white man does as he pleases

Where the white man does as he pleases
Then the talk turned back to whiskey and women
And cold nights on the plains, Lord
And fightin’ them indians
And the Easterner he says he’ll have one more
Fore he goes
He gives the paper to the Crow boy
Who sweeps up the floor

And the gold she lay cold in their pockets
And the sun she sets down on the trees
And they thank the Lord
For the land that they live in
Where the white man does as he pleases

Where the white man does as he pleases
Where the white man does as he pleases
As he wants to, as he pleases

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: David Eric Taylor

It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go

Nanci Griffith

I am a backseat driver from America
They drive to the left on Falls Road
The man at the wheel’s name is Seamus
We pass a child on the corner he knows
And Seamus says, “Now, what chance has that
Kid got?”
And I say from the back, “I don’t know.”
He says, “There’s barbed wire at all of these exits
And there ain’t no place in Belfast for that kid
To go.”It’s a hard life
It’s a hard life
It’s a very hard life
It’s a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all that they’ll know
And there ain’t no place in (Belfast) for
These kids to go

A cafeteria line in Chicago
The fat man in front of me
Is calling black people trash to his children
He’s the only trash here I see
And I’m thinking this man wears a white hood
In the night when his children should sleep
But, they slip to their window and they see him
And they think that white hood’s all they needIt’s a hard life
It’s a hard life
It’s a very hard life
It’s a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all that they’ll know
And there ain’t no place in (Belfast) for
These kids to go

I was a child in the sixties
Dreams could be held through TV
With Disney, and Cronkite, and Martin Luther
Oh, I believed, I believed, I believed
Now, I am the backseat driver from America
I am not at the wheel of control
I am guilty, I am war, I am the root of all evil
Lord, and I can’t drive on the left side of the roadIt’s a hard life
It’s a hard life
It’s a very hard life
It’s a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all that they’ll know
And there ain’t no place in (Belfast) for
These kids to go

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Nanci GriffithIt’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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