The BBC’s rich musical archive comes up trumps with this captivating performance from 1994.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I first came across Nanci Griffith, but it was definitely during the 1980s and almost certainly on Andy Kershaw’s Radio 1 show that I was completely devoted to and introduced me to so much brilliant music. Blessed with an angelic voice (Griffith, not Kershaw!) I was transported away by the characters in her songs, the emotions expressed and the beautifully written words. Nanci Griffith was a big piece in the jigsaw that I was gradually piecing together of the incredibly rich and bountiful Texas folk and country scene.
In 1994 BBC2 ran a short-lived series called Words and Music which profiled singer-songwriters playing and talking about their songs. This clip of Nanci Griffith comes from the last programme of the series, broadcast on April 4th and subtitled American Stories (pt. 2). It was a particularly good way to end the series with not only Nanci Griffith, but also great performances from fellow guests Jackson Browne and Aimee Mann.
The story of how ‘Love at the Five and Dime’ came to be written is featured at the start of the clip. The song subsequently appeared on her 1986 album ‘The Last of The True Believers’ and in the same year a cover version by Kathy Mattea became a hit reaching number 3 on the Billboard Country Music Chart in America. However, Mattea’s somewhat sanitised version didn’t do justice to the quality of the song. Here, some eight years after its release Griffith’s warm, solo acoustic performance much more captures the raw emotions experienced during the ups and downs a lifelong relationship.