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Winter Marquee – Nanci Griffith

Rounder Records 11661-3220-2

At 14, the precocious Nanci Griffith found herself surrounded by the elite
singer songwriters of the Austin area. Performers such as Townes Van Zandt,
Blaze Foley and Guy Clark (along with an equally brilliant teenage prodigy,
Steve Earle) were all part of the same singer/songwriter/honky tonk circuit
which Griffith joined.

By being immersed and involved with such a variety of songwriters and their
notorious excesses, Griffith began to pick up the poetic qualities being
used by them. She watched. She learned. She gained respect for their
artistic integrity. Most important of all, she learned how to convey emotion
with sincerity and transparency.

Now, twenty years into her career, Griffith remains a unique voice still
mining those concepts she first gleaned in her teens. Winter Marquee,
for all of the guest musicians – including Emmylou Harris, Andrew Hardin and
Tom Russell – remains a live document of what has permeated Griffith's music
since her education in Austin. Griffith, much like Van Zandt and Clark, has
the ability to gaze into a singular moment and comprehend the full spectrum
of possibilities without becoming overwhelmed. When she sings, she conveys
this revelation without sounding obscure or muddled. As listeners, we don't
have to dig or become hyper-intellectual to comprehend Griffith's world.

These talents become most obvious on Griffith's performance of Julie Gold's
"Good Night, New York". Artists such as Kelly Willis and Allison Moorer
comment on the difficulty of examining and summarizing the recent tragedies
of 9/11 in a song. Griffith, with her talents, offers solace in the
continuing cyclical nature of our world. And yet, in this cycle exists
redemption "'cause nothings the way it seems". A realization very few
artists could successfully cross carefully: a dichotomy between horror and
soldiering onward.

Griffith seems comfortable in this precarious position throughout this live
release. Songs such as "Travelling Through This Part of You," Phil Ochs'
"What's That I Hear," and "I Wish It Would Rain," all mine the desperate,
utter loneliness and longing now such a part of our world. Before, these
pieces were metaphors of unrequited love, offering introspection. Now the
metaphors are grander, the stage darker, and Griffith realizes the
considerable depth now pertinent to our society's listening. Meaning and
depth hide in every corner, of a more lively manner then previous years
allowed. Admirably, she doesn't shy away.

Missing from Winter Marquee is the customary narration which has
become a mandatory part of Nanci Griffith's performances. At times, her
narration can offer a non-expected manner of perception, or a humorous aside
to add levity to what can become a ponderous set of music. In light of the
songs selected, and the tragic events, what Griffith must think about each
lyrical selection would serve a deeper purpose. Then again, maybe it
wouldn't.

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