Nanci Griffith ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’

Posted 30 Mar 2014 in Albums of 1993, Albums of the 90s, Folk



Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#922 in the sSeries) is Nanci Griffith, Other Voices, Other Rooms

Nanci Griffith, much like John Prine, is one of those artists that flies just under our musical radar much of the time. Even though she sounds very much like her, she does not have the name recognition of Emmylou Harris. She can stand quill for quill on the songwriting medal stand with Joni Mitchell yet you probably can’t name a song she has written, and she even has a bit of that sultry,girl next door vibe going on that we saw with Linda Ronstadt back in the day.

Appearing on the scene in 1978 with her debut album There’s a Light Beyond These Woods, Griffith spent most of her early career years formulating her sound, straddling the genre specific lines of Country, Folk, and Pop before settling in with her Americana sweet spot. After moving to Nashville, she jump-started her overnight success, twenty years in the making career with “Love at the Five & Dime,” that reached number three on the Country charts and was included on her excellent and vastly underrated album The Last of the True Believers, a record that earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Kathy Mattea had a hit with it as well.

In the late 1980’s after loading up the truck and moving to the Pop side of town, Nanci teamed up with producer Glyn Johns on Storms, an album that featured Phil Everly and Albert Lee, followed by Late Great Grand Hotel. While the record did feature some strong songs, it was mostly a fish out of water affair with a Pop sheen that floats somewhere between Mary Chapin Carpenter and Bruce “The Way it Is” Hornsby.” The album is much like a Michelada (beer and tomato juice), an acquired taste that I have yet to acquire.

In a return to form, Other Voices, Other Rooms was released in 1993. At it’s core, the record is a covers album, but this is in name only. With an effortless singing voice that completely wraps itself around every song, the performances are so nuanced that you will want to check the credits to really be sure that she did not write these songs. The title selections are so masterful that it almost seems like the making of this record represented a complete palate cleansing and a coming home,rainbow rising to mark the beginning of the rest of her career.

Under-produced in a very goodnanciother way, the collaboration of friends that participate here is nothing short of “We are the World” worthy. Along with stone-cold jaw-dropping renditions of “Boots of Spanish Leather,” and Jerry Jeff’s “Morning Song for Sally,” Griffith shares a microphone with Emmylou Harris on “Across the Great Divide,” Guy Clark on Woody Guthrie’s “Do-Re-Me,” and Arlo Guthrie on “Tecumseh Valley,” a pairing that is worth the price of admission alone.

The real charm of this record is the way it combines old school Country with 60’s Folk and contemporary Americana into an aurally pleasing musical blend that was actually a bit ahead of its time when it was released in 1993. In a “Sophie’s Choice” sort of predicament, it is difficult to pick just one highlight from this record. “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder,” the Gordon Lightfoot song that features Iris Dement is special, but then again so is “Night Riders Lament” with Don Edwards, maybe even more so.

In 1998, as with Terminator II in one of those rare cases where the sequel might be better than the original, Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful) was released. In what might be a Ginger vs. Mary Ann sort of musical debate that will never be decided, this one also features some really great songs including “Streets of Baltimore,” Tom Russell’s “Canadian Whiskey,” and “Desperadoes Waiting on a Train,” with equally stunning performances courtesy of Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Richard Thompson, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore among others

Much like twins, the two albums taken individually have their own personality and should be loved equally. Your best bet is to invest 01:02:08 of your listening time and savor every one of the 17 courses that have been cooked up for you on Other Voices,Other Rooms, and then move on to Other Voices, Too for desert. Wash it all down with some Canadian Whiskey and life will be good, real good.

— Walt Falconer, Houston, Texas (See Walt’s Website, The Falcon’s Nest)Please-visit-and-LIKE-our-facebook-page

Track listing

  1. “Across the Great Divide” [with Emmylou Harris] (Kate Wolf) – 3:57
  2. “Woman of the Phoenix” [with James Hooker] (Vince Bell) – 2:41
  3. “Tecumseh Valley” [with Arlo Guthrie] (Townes Van Zandt) – 4:29
  4. “Three Flights Up” (Frank Christian) – 3:31
  5. “Boots of Spanish Leather” (Bob Dylan) – 5:17
  6. “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” [with John Prine] (John Prine) – 4:20
  7. “From Clare to Here” [with Pete Cummins] (Ralph McTell) – 5:11
  8. “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound” [with Carolyn Hester] (Tom Paxton) – 3:16
  9. “Do-Re-Mi” [with Guy Clark] (Woody Guthrie) – 2:52
  10. “This Old Town” (Janis Ian, Jon Vezner) – 3:00
  11. “Comin’ Down in the Rain” [with Lee Satterfield] (Buddy Mondlock) – 3:45
  12. “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder” [with Iris DeMent] (Gordon Lightfoot) – 2:40
  13. “Morning Song for Sally” (Jerry Jeff Walker) – 4:55
  14. “Night Rider’s Lament” [with Don Edwards] (Michael Burton) – 3:57
  15. “Are You Tired of Me Darling?” [with Iris DeMent and Emmylou Harris] (G.P. Cook, Ralph Roland) – 3:11
  16. “Turn Around” (Malvina Reynolds/Harry Belafonte/Allen Greene) – 3:19
  17. “Wimoweh” [with Odetta, Indigo Girls, Kennedy Rose, John Prine, James Hooker, Holly & Barry Tashian, John Gorka, Dave Mallett, Marlin Griffith (Nanci’s father), Jim Rooney] (Solomon Linda) – 1:47


  • Nanci Griffith – vocals, guitar harmony vocals
  • Chet Atkins – guitar
  • Fran Breen – drums, percussion
  • John Catchings – cello
  • Frank Christian – guitar
  • Guy Clark – guitar, vocals
  • Pete Cummins – harmony vocals, guitar
  • Iris DeMent – vocals, harmony vocals, guitar
  • Philip Donnelly – guitar
  • Stuart Duncan – mandolin, violin
  • Bob Dylan – harmonica
  • Béla Fleck – banjo
  • Pat Flynn – guitar
  • Arlo Guthrie – harmony vocals, guitar
  • Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals, guitar
  • John Hartford – banjo, vocals
  • Carolyn Hester – harmony vocals, guitar
  • James Hooker – harmony vocal, organ, piano, keyboards
  • Roy M. “Junior” Husky – bass
  • Lee Satterfield – guitar, harmony vocals
  • Mary Ann Kennedy – percussion, vocals
  • Pete Kennedy – guitar
  • Leo Kottke – guitar
  • Alison Krauss – violin
  • Pat McInerney – percussion
  • Edgar Meyer – bass
  • David Mallett – vocals
  • Odetta – vocals
  • John Gorka – vocals
  • Don Edwards – yodeling
  • Marlin Griffith – vocals
  • John Prine – vocals, harmony vocals
  • Amy Ray – vocals
  • Jim Rooney – vocals
  • Pamela Rose – vocals
  • Emily Saliers – vocals
  • Holly Tashian – vocals
  • Barry Tashian – vocals
  • Andrea Zonn – viola

Posted by Larry Carta

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