Thursday, 19 December 2013
119 Lone Star State Of Mind - Nanci Griffith
Purchased : January 1989
Tracks : Lone Star State Of Mind / Cold Hearts Closed Minds / From A Distance / Beacon Street / Nickel Dreams / Sing One For Sister / Ford Econoline / Trouble In The Fields / Love In A Memory / Let It Shine On Me / There's A Light Beyond These Woods ( Mary Margaret )
This was the next purchase from Britannia.
This is another one from the back of the cupboard. It was bought largely on the strength of Annie Nightingale giving "From A Distance" repeat spins and a review in Q ( which I'd now started buying, though irregularly at first ) which suggested she was more folk than country and western. In fact that was more a reflection of her past work ; on this her fifth album she was moving towards conventional country music in search of higher dollar returns. She's aided here by a long list of session names that mean absolutely nothing to me apart from Russ Kunkel who was the main drummer on Tapestry.
"Lone Star State Of Mind" is a song about the call of home and an old love actually written by three guys. Listening to the banjo and pedal steel hammering away it's hard for a non-afficianado to see what distinguishes this from the work of Tammy Wynette or Reba McEntire but Nanci certainly has a very warm and melodious voice
"Cold Hearts Closed Minds" is the first of Nanci's own songs telling her guy she's leaving Chicago - and him - because big city competitiveness is not the life she wants to live. It's a blunt message but the point is pushed aside by the soporific setting.
"From A Distance" follows , the Julie Gold song since marred by two dreadful hit versions courtesy of Cliff Richard and Bette Midler. The overtly Christian sentiments are still there in this version of course but Nanci wins through on conviction and it's nicely paced too with the beat picking up for the second verse when bombs and diseases are mentioned and then dropping back for the third. I'm not sure it needs Mac McAnally's backing vocals but they don't wreck it.
"Beacon Street" is another of Nanci's own songs. This time she's the one who's been left, stranded in a cold town and kept awake by noisy trains. It's more folk than country, a slow acoustic lament with some nice understated mandolin work from Mark O' Connor.
"Nickel Dreams" is a Dolly Parton-esque tale of a small time performer ( or possibly a prostitute ) who isn't going to realise her dreams. The warmth of Nanci's vocal compensates for the rather clichéd lyrics.
"Sing One For Sister " is full-on country as Nanci reminisces about family sing songs to the accompaniment of fiddles, banjos, pedal steel the lot. It's not my thing really.
"Ford Econoline" is another Nanci song but this time a third person tale of a woman who drives away from an abusive husband to make it big as a singer. It's a banjo-driven uptempo country strum with Nanci's vocal upfront but the instrumental break when the steel guitar and fiddle break loose is the most interesting feature.
After the jollity of the preceding couple of tracks "Trouble In the Fields", a co-write with Rick West acknowledges the hardship faced by small farmers in the Reagan era and connects it with the Great Depression. The defiant chorus about staying on the farm may seem unrealistic but it's hard to question Nanci's sincerity.
Nanci's "Love In A Memory" is another third person tale of a separated blue collar couple each holding some precious recollection of their time together. She's a singer (again) and he works on the New Jersey Turnpike ( echoes of Simon and Garfunkel ). At its heart it's a Carole King piano ballad and rather bland and uninspiring.
"Let It Shine On Me " is a soporific Christian anthem written by one Paul Kennerley which relies on some nice guitar work to keep the listener awake.
The album concludes with Nanci's "There's A Light Beyond These Woods ( Mary Margaret )" a touching and beautifully sung account of childhood friends with different lives that would have benefitted from a more interesting arrangement.
I was very disappointed with this when I bought it and haven't played it very much . Now it seems a little more appealing but still doesn't tempt me to explore Nanci's work any further. This album is her high watermark commercially ; though she's had some critical plaudits for later LPs she's never quite broken through.