The Loving Kind
finds Nanci Griffith at the top of her game as a songwriter, interpreter, and singer. Featuring nine songs written by Griffith and her collaborators, and four well-chosen covers, the album takes its place alongside the consistently acclaimed work of this Grammy® Award-winning, genre-defying artist. The songs touch on newsworthy issues as well as matters of the heart, capturing life at its most complex. The Loving Kind
marks a triumphant return for one of America's most revered singer-songwriters. This is Nanci Griffith’s 19th album and first of all-new material since 2005.
With a recording and touring history that stretches back more than two decades, Griffith has established a "brand". But her signature music is much more about art than commerce, which is why her fan base has remained incredibly loyal--fans include contemporaries such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Emmy Lou Harris, all of whom have either recorded her songs or insisted she record theirs. The Loving Kind
was produced by Pat McInerney and Thomm Jutz and features McInerney on drums and percussion, Jutz on guitar, Matt McKenzie on bass, Barry Walsh on keyboards, Shad Cobb on fiddle and Fats Kaplin on pedal steel guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
From the mid to late 1980s, 'folkabilly' singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith issued an inspired string of albums that have influenced a generation of country and folk artists. However, the Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993) was her last great one, and she has since battled cancer twice and produced a handful of lacklustre efforts. The Loving Kind isn't a full return to form, but it does sound like her muse is finally on the mend.
It's also fair to say that Ruby's Torch (2006), was a career low point, from which - one hoped - the only way was up. Thankfully, both the strings and jazz/torch song dalliances of that record and Hearts in Mind (2004) have been ditched in favour of arrangements that recall her early work, featuring fiddle, steel guitar, piano and accordion.
In the sleeve notes, Griffith frankly acknowledges: ''During the past few years, I'd lost something in my heart for writing songs'', and harmony vocalist Peter Cooper says he realised part way through the making of The Loving Kind that, ''Nanci Griffith was writing folk songs again''.
That's obvious in the title track, which celebrates the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving, who challenged the ban on interracial marriage in the US just half a century ago. As Griffith succinctly observes, ''They changed the heart of a nation''. She picks up the theme of times a-changin' again in Across America, which rejoices in the 'Obama effect', and on the powerful anti-death penalty anthem Not Innocent Enough, with its magical, instantly recognisable cameo by John Prine.
Of the more autobiographical material, the standout is probably the MORish ballad Things I Don't Need, with brave words for the perennially single, ''True love always seems to fly by me/I wonder if it's one of those things I don't need''.
The inclusion of four covers suggests some padding was needed. Gale Trippsmith's Money Changes Everything and Dee Moeller's Party Girl are the better ones, although the two rather clichéd drinking songs at the close suggest Griffith's artistic recovery is a work in progress. But no-one could call this an ''unnecessary plastic object''. --Jon Lusk
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