Review: Nanci Griffith, Working in Corners & Various Artists, More Than a Whisper – Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith
On the 45th anniversary of her debut album the artist gets the reissue and tribute treatment
Marking her 70th birthday – and the 45th anniversary of her debut LP, There's a Light Beyond These Woods – Nanci Griffith receives proper reissue of her first four albums, previously out of print, and a stellar tribute release. Griffith, who passed away in 2021, helped define Austin's singer-songwriter scene in the late Seventies behind her vivid, piercingly poetic lyrics and immaculate voice, and the four-LP box set Working in Corners resurfaces those early years building toward breakout fourth album, 1986's Grammy-nominated The Last of the True Believers. The accompanying booklet captures her journey through extensive interviews with contemporaries and images and artifacts from her start at Austin's Alamo Lounge and emmajoes to eventual Nashville emergence.
Together, the reissues showcase Griffith's clear evolution, from the stirring folk of her debut and Poet in My Window to the confidence and expanding sound of third platter Once in a Very Blue Moon. While the reissues box doesn't offer any surprises like demos, outtakes, or live recordings, simply having these first albums available again proves indispensable.
The separate tribute from Rounder follows Griffith's considerable influence, gathering legends like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Iris DeMent, and Mary Gauthier, but also younger songwriting acolytes like Sarah Jarosz with a stunning "You Can't Go Home Again" and Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle teaming to jam "Listen to the Radio." Most remarkable among the 14 tracks are John Prine and Kelsey Waldon ("Love at the Five and Dime"), Lyle Lovett and Kathy Mattea ("Trouble in the Fields"), and Shawn Colvin flying "Outbound Plane" into the War and Treaty's soaring close with "From a Distance."