PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
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

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.