FOR MANY years Nanci Griffith has straddled the fine line between folk and country with a unique style of playing and singing she has christened ‘folkabilly’
Her confessional songwriting style and lilting vocal delivery has won over audiences on both side of the Atlantic and she has worked with Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Mary Black and The Chieftains.
In the late 1980s she was accorded superstar status in Ireland when her rendition of Julie Gold’s ‘From A Distance’ shot to the top of the charts.
“Ireland owns ‘From a Distance’ now,” Griffith told me in an interview in 2007. “The country took that song to their heart and made it a world anthem. I still think of Ireland as my home away from home and I’ve got such good friends in Galway such as Jim Rooney and John Prine. I also gigged with the Chieftains for a while in Dublin.”
As part of an extensive Irish and British tour to promote her new album The Loving Kind Nanci Griffith plays the Town Hall Theatre on Tuesday February 16 at 8pm.
Griffith was born in rural Texas in 1953 to artistic and musical parents. Surrounded by music, books, and theatre from an early age she began to play guitar and write her own songs at age six.
Buddy Holly and The Crickets, who were topping the US charts at the time, were a big influence. “Holly and the Crickets were the first band who wrote their own songs and produced their own records, and they were from the next town over from me,” Griffith said. “They had a profound influence on everyone that came afterwards including The Beatles and Elvis Costello.
“Everybody believes The Beatles were the first to write and produce their own stuff but the Crickets pre-dated them by quite a few years. They’re sort of the founding corner stone of rock‘n’roll and were one of the most talented bands ever. I mean you had the drummer Jerry Allison writing ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘Peggy Sue’, about his wife Peggy Sue Gerron, when he was only a teenager.”
During her high school years Griffith developed her songwriting craft and at 14 was discovered by singer-songwriter Tom Russell at a campfire at the Kerrville Folk Festival. She continued to perform while attending the University of Texas where she trained as a kindergarten teacher.
In 1976 she married singer-songwriter Eric Taylor and together they contributed a number of songs to a Houston songwriter compilation album entitled Through The Dark Nightly. The material caught the attention of the music industry, convincing Griffith to pursue music full-time.
Her big breakthrough came with the albums Once In A Very Blue Moon and Last Of The True Believers, both of which were produced by Jim Rooney. One Fair Summer Evening (1988 ) produced the singles ‘From A Distance’ and ‘I Would Bring You Ireland’ and started her love affair with Irish audiences.
Six years later she won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms, again produced by Rooney, cementing her position as one of the US’ finest female artists.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.