AmericanA to Z – Nanci Griffith

With twenty albums under her belt Nanci Griffith is by no means an unknown artist; singing what she classes a folkabilly, she writes with a confessional style, and with her voice, which is made for folk music. It is a perfect combination for a true Americana singer.

She started as an occasional folk singer and kindergarten teacher. Her songwriting has won awards since the start of her career before her debut album was created. Also before “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods”, released in 1978,  she was touring by herself, booking herself into small clubs and playing at college radio stations. She kept touring across North America playing at small clubs and festivals she recorded another two albums: “Poet in my Window” and “Once in a Very Blue Moon”.

In hindsight, Nanci Griffith was one of my first experiences with Americana music. It was 2012 when I saw her at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, I first heard Nanci Griffith’s music, I went with my dad and I heard what would be my favourite songs of hers  “Hell No (I’m Not Alright)”  which led to me listening to her then newly released “Intersection” album. In all honesty, I probably had heard her throughout my childhood. I had probably heard her music when my dad was listening to music on a Sunday afternoon, but that was when it stuck with me.

“Intersection” is such a personal album of Griffith’s, containing her secrets and fears and singing from the heart. It is also quite self-critical of her own past, the song “Bad Seed” about a girl that hasn’t seen love from her father, that could have been from her own upbringing. But the whole album doesn’t focus on her history; some of it is about her present like the aforementioned “Hell No (I’m Not Alright)” its message is as simple as the title – it doesn’t matter how often you ask, I’m not okay and the answer isn’t changing.

The Career:  20 studio albums, a massive songwriting collection, a life timing of gigging and a Grammy.

Key Release: Her Grammy-winning 1993 album “Other Voices, Other Rooms”  is easily one of her best albums. A compilation of songs written by other artists that had inspired her career, songs written by Kate Wolf and Bob Dylan. “Boots of Spanish Leather” originally by Dylan is one of the standout songs on the album, he even plays harmonic  on it. The album is a perfect mix of country, folk, grassroots and a strong songwriting traditions.

Author: Elise Kennedy

Avid country music fan and journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University

2 thoughts on “AmericanA to Z – Nanci Griffith”

  1. I love Nancy Griffiths and have seen her in concert on two occasions, one in the Republic of Ireland at a country festival with Emmylou Harris and Kenny Rogers we came across by chance when on holiday there in 2006. My favourite album is Winter Marquee – a recorded live performance – demonstrating a range of different songs and styles. My favourite is ‘the light beyond these woods’ perfectly capturing dreams of childhood
    I am aware that she hasn’t performed recently and hope to see her do so again in the UK

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