Music

Nanci Griffith: The Loving Kind

It’s good to have Griffith going back to her folk/country roots for inspiration.

Nanci Griffith

The Loving Kind

Label: Rounder
US Release Date: 2009-06-09
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Nanci Griffith began her career as a folk/country singer, but that side of her has been missing for most of the past decade, as she explored everything from torch songs to light classical music. Now she’s returned back to her roots for her first album of mostly new material in almost five years. The results are a mixed bag. Griffith comes up with some terrific songs and puts them over with grace and style, but she sometimes tries too hard to be topical or deep. The sincerity can grate rather than please.

Griffith co-wrote nine of the 13 songs on the record, not including the title cut. The details of “The Loving Kind” are so explicitly clear and evocative that it sounds like the kind of tune that creates itself. Richard and Mildred Loving were a white man and black woman who were jailed and forced to leave their home state of Virginia because of miscegenation laws that barred interracial marriage. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Virginia law and declared marriage “a basic civil right.” In these days where gay marriage is still a controversial topic, Griffith’s song seems especially relevant. The fact that the couple was actually named “Loving” adds a sweet connotation to the proceedings.

The other standout track also comes from a case of miscarried justice, but in this case the situation was not resolved as well. “Not Innocent Enough” concerns the death row case of Philip Workman. He was convicted of killing a Memphis police officer in 1981 and executed by the state of Tennessee in the spring of 2007, despite new evidence that proved his innocence. Griffith, an anti-death penalty proponent, passionately sings against the injustice of the situation, backed by John Prine, Todd Snider, and Elizabeth Cook.

The supporting cast on the album includes a top notch group of session musicians, with Pat McInerney on drums, Thomm Jutz on guitar (Jutz and McInerney also produced the record), Fats Kaplin on pedal steel, Shad Cobb on fiddle, Barry Walsh on keyboards, and Matt McKenzie on bass. The band does a good job of keeping the music always moving without getting in the way of the lyrics. Griffith has a distinctively pretty voice that sounds somewhere between a kittenish whisper and an articulate orator. Even when she raises her voice, Griffith sounds as if she’s quietly trying to get your attention. It would be easy for a band to overwhelm her with volume, but the instrumentation never does.

The weakest tracks are the ones in which Griffith oversimplifies details to make a point, whether it’s telling the story of Townes Van Zandt on “Up Against the Rain” or lambasting President George W. Bush on “Still Life”. There are better songs by other artists on these subjects. Griffith’s attempts tend to fall flat, though with good intentions. She does much better on “Cotton”, where she empathetically tells of the life of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Here she lets the specifics of time and place make the case for her.

It's good to have Griffith going back to her folk/country roots for inspiration. She originally mined that musical tradition where personal and political concerns meld together in a call for social change. These times call for musicians to pay attention, to use their music to help us all move forward together. Griffith's return to the movement is a welcome one.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image