The title More Than A Whisper – Celebrating The Music Of Nanci Griffith probably says it all, given the disproportionate heft of the footprint left behind by this self-effacing singer. Her mild and bookish persona, all ankle socks and cardigans, might suggest a small town librarian or primary school teacher, but what she gave, and what you got, was so very much more. A consummate writer of literate story songs (she called them folkabilly), Griffith could captivate any an audience with her Texas charm and sweet/sour voice, attracting the best musicians to play by her side. Both as a writer and an interpreter, she lived and breathed the characters in songs she made her own, several of which are well on the to becoming standards. Her run of albums, from her 1978 debut There’s A Light Beyond These Woods through to Storms, a decade and a bit later, was little short of astonishing, the traction of the one building on the next until she became quite the star. And if she became, latterly, drawn, or possibly led, more to the mainstream, with the country hayride honed down a little, still the songs remained the same, elegant constructions, meticulously put together. Illness quietened her workload this century, her last album made in 2012, before her death in 2021.
It is fair to say that most of the songs on More Than a Whisper come from Griffith’s imperial phase, 1987-9, a time where she could do no wrong, touring constantly, with new material pouring out of her. I must have seen her two or three times during those years; she always included the UK and Ireland in her itineraries. I was never less than enthralled by the show she and her Blue Moon Orchestra would put on, falling, always, a little more in love. And, lest you feel this project of such appeal as to bring back singers from the dead, this album has been several years in the gestation, it fitting, and vital, that it should include one singer always very closely associated with her. You’ll know who I mean.