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Nanci Griffith From A Distance - The Very Best Of Review

Compilation. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

For anyone who has yet to discover the aching sadness and child-like wonder that lurks...

Chris Jones 2002

While many know Nanci as the Queen of Folkabilly (whatever that is) this compilation of her years at MCA demonstrates that, despite being known as a purveyor of squeaky-voiced acoustic folk-country, she can do the whole range of Nashville styles. From smooth countrypolitan to jaunty truckin' tales via plaintive ballads of heartbreaking beauty; this album has 'em all.

Despite the versatility most recall Nanci for her voice. Its pure, Texan-born twang mixed with Minnie Mouse on helium quality was a trademark in her early years. Combined with a strangely wide-eyed, bobbysox-wearing image; it contrived to give the overriding impression of a little-girl-lost. Yet by the time she hit the country jackpot (with the title track of this collection) and joined a major label she was already maturing into a true Nashville diva. She'd actually gone through one tough divorce and was singing tough songs that placed the viewer in the shoes of a very worldly woman indeed, albeit still delivered in that voice as sweet as honey.

This collection draws on her four studio albums for MCA between 1987's Lone Star State Of Mind to 1991's Late Night Grand Hotel and also niftily fills in the early gaps (such as the breakthrough singles "Once In A Very Blue Moon" and "Love At The Five And Dime") with live versions culled from 1988's One Fair Summer Evening. The selection paints an almost perfect picture of Griffith as both a feminist/realist icon with songs like "Looking For The Time" or "It's A Hard Life Wherever You Go", and also as a dyed-in-the-wool romantic on touching songs such as "Anyone Can Be Somebody's Fool" or "Late Night Grande Hotel". As her Little Love Affairs concept album proved, she's always been able to conjure remarkably concise portraits of the human heart.

The only omissions are really those that take us up to the present day. Having conquered just about every genre that Nashville had to offer her Dust Bowl Symphony led her into surprisingly lush territory by setting her songs against a full orchestra, while last year's Clock Without Hands found her contemplating the intense subject of Vietnam's legacy in her country. But this is nit-picking. For anyone who has yet to discover the aching sadness and child-like wonder that lurks inside the work of this constantly-evolving artist, they could do a lot worse than start their journey here.

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