Nanci Griffith

Hearts in Mind – 2005 (New Door/Universal)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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Over three decades, Nanci Griffith has gone from a demure folkie balancing a teaching job with a standing gig at an Austin bar to a high profile world citizen, using her gorgeous music and voice as a platform to detail the horrors of war and the injustice of class division. But through it all, Griffith has understood one thing above all else; the uneven terrain around the human heart, as it rises and falls with love found and lost and how it intertwines with the larger social and political issues she champions.

Griffith's 17th album (not counting numerous retrospectives), is simply another jewel in her priceless singer/songwriter crown. Griffith is a gifted translator (evidenced by her take on Clive Gregson's joyfully ironic "I Love This Town" - a duet with Jimmy Buffett, no less - and Julie Gold's heartbreaking 9/11 ode "Mountain of Sorrow") as well as a magnficent writer and collaborator (her own stunning anti-war protests "Big Blue Ball of War" and "A Simple Life"). This also shows the cumulative effects of Griffith's musical evolution as she incorporates swing, bluegrass, pop and gospel into her already potent folk/country mix. On Le An Etheridge's "Back When Ted Loved Sylvia," a melancholy look at the doomed relationship of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Griffith sings, "I don't need an answer/I prefer to read between the lines."

For the whole of her career, Nanci Griffith has been reading between the lines - musically, lyrically, politically, morally - and divining the truth.