A GUEST POSTING by FLIMFLANFAN
In early September 2021 I was trawling through music websites when I was stopped in my tracks as I read an old byline “Nanci Griffith: Folk and country singer-songwriter dies aged 68.”
The article was date 13th August, 2021.
Nanci and I parted company sometime after the release of the album Storms (1989), although I occasionally popped back into see her, most notably with the release of Other Voices Other Rooms (1993). I could never describe myself as a huge fan, I only own 6 of her albums, but reading of her death made an impact.
I Wish It Would Rain
From the mid to late 80s Nanci was part of a gang of Americana, Folk and Country artists/bands from the USA that received a very warm welcome in Glasgow: Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, Lone Justice, The Long Ryders etc. It was a testing time for an indie ‘kid’ to admit to enjoying Folk, Country and Americana, but I cared not a jot – a good deal of indie bands had been and would continue to put their slant on country/folk – and even the most diehard of indie fans eventually had to eat some cake. Most of the albums my parents had were country artists or artists heavily influenced by its charms – I was hooked early on. Not even my love of indie would make me forsake country.
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
I was introduced to Nanci’s music via a very good pal. I have a feeling the album would have been Lone Star State of Mind (1985), equally, it could have been Once In a Very Blue Moon (1984). I soon became quite the fan and with only a year to wait between albums there was always something to look forward to.
Nanci had a singing voice that I believe could only fit the folk/ country genre and a wonderful ability to story tell, that suits said genres perfectly as is illustrated by, for example:
Love at the Five and Dime
I think it was in 1988 (a considerable internet trudge could find no confirmation) that it was announced that Nanci would play Govan Town Hall as part of Glasgow’s Mayfest festival. I recall a scramble for tickets, given the small capacity, and thankfully I got mine. I lived in Govan at the time, so would be able to take a short stroll home.
As the gig grew closer it was announced that Nanci would appear on the Wogan Show, in London on the same night as the Glasgow gig? Eyebrows began to be raised. Wogan started at 7.00pm how was it possible that Nanci would get to Glasgow for the show’s start time? The answer is, she didn’t. At the gig an announcement was made that Nanci was running late but that she would appear. I don’t recall how late she was, but I do recall it being a significant wait (over an hour, possibly) in a brooding atmosphere of discontent … and then she appeared. Within minutes, the discontent had been shrugged off as Nanci wrapped us around her little fingers. It was a fantastic night and all the better, somehow, for her lateness – apparently, she arrived by helicopter….
There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)
The only other time I would have seen her live was at The Big Day (1990), Glasgow (subject of recent discussions in basement rooms) but I have no recollection of it?
I’ve listened to her music less often of late, but on hearing the news of her death I’ll polish the vinyl and set the volume to 10.5.
11 seems excessive.
When I do listen to Nanci the following will occur … I’ll move onto Dwight Yoakam, The Long Ryders, Lone Justice, Maria McKee, The Coal Porters and, of course, Loretta Lynn and then maybe some Camera Obscura perhaps the Lilac Time will enjoy a spin.
Nanci left a considerable legacy beyond the innumerable cover versions of her songs, not least of which is the mighty From A Distance which charted at number one in the US in 1990, (Bette Midler).
I’m sure Nanci raked in quite the mint, but the Devine Miss M should have left it to Nanci.
Thanks, Nanci. You really shone a light.
Let It Shine On Me
7 thoughts on “ALWAYS REMEMBERED – NANCI GRIFFITH”
It was sad to hear of Nanci’s death, although she had been unwell for several years. She (with Steve Earle) was my gateway to alt-country, via a track on an NME cassette.
She could mix old-school sentimentality with an acerbic left-leaning political sensibility, range from classic folk-country to raucous hillbilly. The Flyer album is pretty great, some tracks recorded in Dublin with a couple of guys from a local bar band called U2, with a superb duet with Adam Duritz from Counting Crows on Going Back To Georgia.
Her choice of covers was always tasteful, notably on that Other Voices album where Across The Great Divide is chilling and beautiful. She did several Tom Waits songs on later albums, which was brave, and her versions are pretty decent.
I met her for coffee once, in the City Cafe in Edinburgh in the 90s where she was a bit tetchy with jet lag but knowledgeable and passionate about injustice and racism in the States.
Fabulous post. Thanks. She takes me back to AM radio and driving around the USA with only country available…
Great choices too. Totally agree about FaD, it’s definitely her definitive version and not BM’s, but she didn’t actually write it. Her choices of covers are exceptional (Sound of the Speed of Loneliness is a great example).
Great to see my beloved Nanci on here. She meant a lot to my dad and I. We saw her a couple of times at the Concert Hall in Glasgow, I remember feeling so sophisticated at the age of 13 (my second ever live show!).
@ Chaval – Steve Earle was definitely part of my own Alt/Country gang and should have been listed.
@ Nic – I’m had no idea (clearly) that Nanci didn’t write From a Distance. Yet another nugget gleaned for the pages of T(n)VV. It seems we agree that Nanci’s was the definitive version.
Sorry to be a pedant but it would have been Julie Gold that ‘raked in quite the mint’ from ‘From A Distance’ since she wrote it, not Nanci.
Anyway, yes, NG terribly missed.
Hugs to JC x
A lovely post, FFF – beautifully written and expressed.
A really moving post, FFF, and great song selections. Thank you.