Album Review

Various Artists - More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith

A beautiful tribute to a truly unique songwriter

Holler Country Music
September 22, 2023 10:25 am GMT
Last Edited September 28, 2023 10:29 am GMT

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Various Artists - More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith

Label: Rounder Records

Release Date: September 22, 2023

Producers: Jim Rooney

Tracklisting:

Side A

1. You Can’t Go Home Again (Sarah Jarosz)

2. Love at the Five & Dime (John Prine, Kelsey Waldon)

3. Listen to the Radio (Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle)

4. Love Wore a Halo (Back Before the War) (Emmylou Harris)

5. Trouble in the Fields (Lyle Lovett, Kathy Mattea)

6. Gulf Coast Highway (Brandy Clark)

Side B

1. Outbound Plane (Shawn Colvin)

2. It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go (Steve Earle)

3. Late Night Grande Hotel (Aaron Lee Tasjan)

4. Ford Econoline (Todd Snider)

5. Banks of the Pontchartrain (Iris DeMent)

6. More Than a Whisper (Mary Gauthier)

Nanci Griffith gets the all-star tribute her songs deserve with some of country and folk’s brightest lights from past and present stepping up to pay their respects to one of its most singular songwriters.

“You take a whole lot of Woody Guthrie and a whole lot of Loretta Lynn, swoosh it around and it comes out as Nanci Griffith,” the singer said, but there was a whole lot more swooshing around in there with those two.

You can taste little scoops of the vivid storytelling of her Texas country contemporaries Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker in every lick, along with the eccentric country-folk of John Prine and Odetta, with a generous sprinkle of Malvina Reynolds and Peggy Seeger on top.

The real triumph of this collection is the love that each of these artists obviously has for these songs. So, you get the summery bluegrass of Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle’s ‘Listen to the Radio’ and Brandy Clark singing ‘Gulf Coast Highway’, as if it was a song of her own she’d kept secret all these years.

On ‘Banks Of The Pontchartrain,’ Iris Dement takes the chirpy swing of the original and makes it sound like an Edith Piaf curtain closer, while Steve Earle fills the incendiary ‘It’s A Hard Life Wherever You Go’ with a gruff fury that Griffith’s own delicately high and lonesome delivery only hinted at. John Prine and Kelsey Waldon’s version of ‘Love at the Five & Dime’, meanwhile, is so beautiful it’s almost hard to take it all in.

A beautiful tribute to a truly unique songwriter. Just when you thought you couldn’t love these songs any more than you already do, you’ll find yourself falling in love with them all over again.

8.5/10

More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith is out now via Rounder Records. For more on Nanci Griffith, see below:

Written by Jof Owen
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