Not content to rest on her laurels as the Queen of Contemporary Folk Music, singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith has for a long time sought to enlarge upon the genre's basic acoustic-guitar-based sound to more fully express the complex emotional situations her songs portray. After flirting with country music on Little Love Affairs (1988) and Storms (1989), Griffith misstepped with the distant, overproduced pop of Late Night Grande Hotel (1991). To reaffirm her roots, the singer recorded an album of classic folk tunes written by other artists, the moving Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993).
On Flyer, Griffith makes her second try at intricately sculpted folk pop and this time succeeds gloriously. Armed with a batch of poignant, melodic songs, Griffith has come up with the most affecting record of her career, a disc that deals candidly with the pain of romantic relationships, the losses that accompany aging and the emotional cost of professional success. Helping the singer create such a cohesive suite are producer Peter Collins and Peter Buck of R.E.M., who produced two of the album's tracks. Griffith's preeminence in the folk world has garnered her a horde of musical admirers, many of whom guest here: Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, U2's Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., the Indigo Girls, the Chieftains, the BoDeans, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris.
By using complicated arrangements to build upon rather than overshadow Griffith's sturdy melodies, soul-searching lyrics and high, quavering drawl, the producers have created beautiful landscapes of sound, particularly on "Say It Isn't So," a song about the creeping paranoia of lost love, in which lovely guitar and harmonica parts are reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer." Mullen's slap-happy drumming on "These Days in an Open Book" coupled with the Indigo Girls' soaring background vocals give this ode to loss and grieving "Will you still find me if I leave you here beside this road," Griffith asks a long-cherished but departed lover a hopeful air. Showing unusual vocal restraint, the often overemotive Duritz helps turn the percussive, mandolin-laced "Going Back to Georgia," which he co-wrote, into a gorgeous duet about faith and redemption.
More focused and personal than anything Griffith has done since Little Love Affairs, with some lyrics reading as though they had come straight from her diary, Flyer shows a singer/songwriter who has evolved from a precocious, wide-eyed folkie into a mature artist at the peak of her genre-busting musical power. (RS 696)
(Posted: Dec 1, 1994)
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A beautiful and haunting recording with the Blue Moon Orchestra at its peak. They complement Nanci's wonderful vocals so perfectly there is not a bad song in the bunch. It is also the most folk/rock of her entire catalogue. Only regret is that she hasn't followed up with anything of a similar style.
May 13, 2007 10:51:32
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