Nanci Griffith,
Once in a Very Blue Moon
(self-produced, 1984;
Rounder/Philo, 2002)

This is a welcome re-issue of a CD from the early days of Nanci Griffith.

I enjoyed Griffith's early work but felt that she -- like so many artists -- veered too often into pop in her later offerings and so lost much of her "guts." Although Once in a Very Blue Moon is a re-issue, I had not heard a lot of the work on this CD before; I was in for a pleasant surprise right from track one.

"Ghost in the Music" is an enigmatic sort of song. The more I listen the deeper it gets and at the same time the more ambiguous the lyrics become. "Foreign father, American son, father see what your son has done." "Love is a Hard Waltz" is another of those songs that make country so relevant. It tells us what love is with a nice melody and some hard home truths. I was surprised by some of the lyrics which may alienate some listeners "I know women who gather for the hatred of men, their eyes are as closed as the blind Ku Klux Klan" and "we've lived in fear of the needs of our neighbors."

"Roseville Fair" is well known to us all and Nanci gives it a beautiful interpretation here. This is one of those songs that sound as if they have been with us for eons but then we find that they are composed by modern songwriters. "Mary and Omie" is a saga-song that tells a sad tale of wanting to leave but then missing what we leave behind.

"Time Alone" will ring bells with real lovers the world over. It is a sad song and a re-affirming song at the same time, and it is a tribute to Griffith's writing ability. The title track, "Once in a Very Blue Moon," is perhaps the best known to most listeners.

My favourite track on this CD is "If I Were the Woman You Wanted." Lyle Lovett wrote it with the gender changed. It is a beautiful and witty song that bears repeated listening. The sad truth of so many lives is revealed in the lines, "If I were the woman you wanted, baby, I would not be the woman I am."

This album features Nanci Griffith doing what she does best, giving gutsy renditions of songs that have something to say. I am always amazed at how her voice and interpretation belie her fragile looks. She is ably abetted on this CD with harmony vocals by Lyle Lovett on a number of tracks and the Clontarf (Dublin) Cowboy, Philip Donnelly on guitar.

If you like your country with soul and your songs with heart buy this one.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 13 July 2002

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