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review: Nanci Griffith - Blue Roses

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FROM A DISTANCE
IT'S A HARD LIFE


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kimbro@lcs.net 02 Mar 97 - 12:19 AM
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Subject: Nanci Griffith - Blue Roses
From: kimbro@lcs.net
Date: 02 Mar 97 - 12:19 AM

- Blue Horizons

"Out of the blue horizon stretched a band of gold" writes Nanci Griffith in the first line of the song "Two For The Road." It's a line that maps the course of her new album "Blue Roses From The Moons." Her "band of gold" is the critically acclaimed Blue Moon Orchestra, and the album is both a celebration of their ten-year relationship and an opportunity to stretch the artistic horizons of the group. And stretch they do, through the production of Don Gehman and the help of country rocker Sonny Curtis, Buddy Holly's legendary band "The Crickets," and Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker.

"I was wanting a live album and the opportunity to celebrate the past ten years of this band by working with my musical heroes from West Texas," beams Griffith in the liner notes. "The road and the years have flown by, my hair has grown blue to match the moon, the roses keep coming, and my writing has gone home to its roots." Indeed, Griffith's roots are showing in this project. The album takes us on a tour through her musical evolution. The tender and emotional prayer "Saint Teresa of Avila" is reminiscent of the lean, pure charm in her earlier West Texas folk recordings, and she turns up the country twang with Sonny Curtis on a rollicking cover of his "I Fought the Law." She draws from the upbeat progressive style of her most recent "Flyer" album with the optimistic first single "Everything's Comin' Up Roses," a song she co-wrote with her pal from the Nashville rock and roll scene, Matt Ryan.

The diverse talents of The Blue Moon Orchestra and especially the soulful and sophisticated keyboards of band leader James Hooker are superbly displayed throughout the disc. Hooker shows his genre-bending versatility with a style similar to the polished Nashville Sound of the 1950's in the traditional sounding "Maybe Tomorrow" and stretches into a Hammond B3 reminiscent of Procol Harum as Griffith sweetly reveals, "A Whiter Shade of Pale is my best kept secret" in the wistful "Waiting For Love." Hooker's background with Steve Winwood, and The Amazing Rhythm Aces is first rate, but his playing literally glitters when illuminated by the sparkling talents of the Blue Moon Orchestra, proving once again that Griffith and Hooker are "Two For The Road."

Griffith travels some familiar back-roads on the album with her classic duet "Gulf Coast Highway" this time joined by the rich baritone of Darius Rucker. While her fans will tell you that co-writer Hooker makes the best companion on this lyrical turnpike, Rucker adds some innovative twists and turns, and the result is an entertaining journey down one of Griffith's most well-traveled streets. But there's more to this disk's spacious horizons than a trip along the Gulf. Griffith and the band take a reckless ride on the rails in "Morning Train," a spirited New Orleans rocker. "Gonna skip mah rang across the Miss-us-sipp-ee Ri-ver," whines Griffith with her trademark folkabilly charm, "an' when it sanks, well I won't feeel a thang." This one's sure to be a favorite, not only to the faithful who have been riding along with Griffith from the start, but also with fans who have only recently joined her musical caravan.

The theme of lost love is a recurring one in Griffith's poignant song-writing so it's no surprise that there are pieces of broken heart scattered along this blue highway. In "I Live on a Battlefield," a somewhat unusual song, she compares a relationship gone bad to the horrors of war. "I live on a battlefield! Battlefield!" she shouts over the band's bass vocals which rumble like artillery fire echoing through the allegorical ruins of a hopeless romance. "Is This All There Is?" is a contemplative, heartbreaking glimpse of an irreparable love affair and perhaps the exchange of one band of gold for another. But she defiantly rocks right back exclaiming, "I'll take my change at my own damn pace" in "I'll Move Along." With her thumb in the breeze Griffith wraps up the album with an exquisite cover of Guy Clark's "She Ain't Goin' Nowhere." In the last line she confirms her choice of life on the road by declaring, "She ain't goin' home and that's for sure."

And that's just where she leaves us, once more on the road. It's left for us to hitch a ride with Nanci Griffith and her band of gold into the blue horizon. And it's sure to be an engaging journey, one along bluebonnet-lined highways, beneath shining power lines stretched over silver rails, tripping through battlefields of heartache, trailing across misty mountains and deserted moors, racing around Buffalo Bayous, then gingerly stepping through gardens of roses. But not just any roses, only the kind that can be provided by this very special band. Blue Roses, from the Blue Moon Orchestra. ---

"Blue Roses From The Moons" By Nanci Griffith and the Blue Moon Orchestra with special guests Sonny Curtis, The Crickets, and Darius Rucker will be released on Elektra Records March 25, 1997.

Reviewed by S. Kimbro and L. Day . The writers have no affiliation with Nanci Griffith, Elektra, or anyone involved with the making of this album.


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