Last week, when I read the sad news that singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith had died, I spent the evening listening to YouTubes of songs of hers I’ve loved. This seems to be a common ritual of mourning for people we don’t actually know but whose work has been a touchstone in our lives.
There’s a lot of good Nanci Griffith on YouTube, but the one that kind of stabbed me in the kishkes was the recording linked above, of a 1989 performance on Austin City Limits. She’s so young, and alternates between bold and barky, and angelically girlish. The songs are pure gold, a particular favorite being “Radio.” I loved this song before I’d ever been to the South. All that stuff about “these Delta towns wear satin gowns” and smelling the Pontchartrain was a leap of imagination for me.
I loved a comment I read, where the poster says they recorded this episode of ACL because Emmylou Harris was the headliner, and after watching it went right out and bought every Nanci Griffith record. She had that way.
If you don’t know her work, start with one of the great songs about marriage, “Trouble in the Fields,” sung here by Maura O’Connell, with Nanci singing harmony.
Let me be the 1 millionth fan to express the hope that Nanci Griffith has caught some blackbird’s wing.