A few weeks ago I had a wonderful musical experience at Town Hall in New York City. I have long been a fan of the great singer songwriter Nanci Griffith, who is for me, the pinnacle of music’s equivalent of rustic chic. Not country, not folk, Nanci defies such simplistic categorization.
I had never before attended a concert in Town Hall but it was the perfect venue for Nanci’s brand of music. She is a prolific poet with a beautiful voice tailor-made for the rather intimate arena that is Town Hall. Nanci’s range is astounding but it’s her songs filled with pathos and longing that will really tear your heart out, stomp on it and then hand it back it you.
One such a song is the title track from her new album “The Loving Kind”. This album is Nanci’s 19th and the title song deals with the landmark Supreme Court case from 1958 wherein an interracial couple from Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving, fought for their right to be married. Their victory ended the ban on interracial marriage.
Nanci, along with three of her backup vocalists and instrumentalists who have toured with her for years, entertained for two hours with just their voices, a set of drums and three guitars. It was so enjoyable to be truly entertained without pyrotechnics.
She also performed some of her older songs, which were great to hear live, including “Love at the Five and Dime” and “At a Distance”, of which the latter would go on to become a huge commercial hit for Bette Midler (but Nanci recorded it first). I do wish she had performed one of my favorite songs from any genre which is “Late Night Grande Hotel”, but she did not. You can view this terrific music video by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78WSj5T5gn8.
Another revelation at Town Hall was Amy Speace who was Nanci’s opening act. This former Jersey girl has an amazing voice and it was mesmerizing to watch her play the guitar and sing – so simple, so entertaining. Amy performed many of the songs from her new album, “The Killer in Me”, which is a “killer” title for an album in my opinion. Like Nanci she writes and records music that makes you think. Take a listen to her song “Haven’t Learned a Thing” but especially “The Weight of the World”, which is about a 19-year-old boy going to war. A youth so hopeful but ultimately so tragic. It’s a heartbreaking song and you’ll be blown away by her performance – just Amy and her guitar.