I Don’t Know When I’ve Had A Better Friend

While I can’t know how folks really felt about Nanci Griffith, based on the portion of her career to which I was paying close attention, she sure seemed to have a lot of good friends and command the respect of folks in the business. The list of guest musicians on her 1994 album Flyer is amazing: Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls, members of the Chieftains, U2, and the BoDeans, Mark Knopfler, Adam Duritz…on and on it goes. She certainly had good taste, too: the songwriters whose work she chose to cover on her Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms include Dylan, Prine, Lightfoot, Woody Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Townes van Zandt, Janis Ian, Kate Wolf, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

I’m probably not alone in first learning of Griffith in 1989, when VH-1 frequently played “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go.” I soon hit up the public libraries in Urbana and Champaign for Storms and a few of her earlier albums; my officemate Paul ripped them on cassette for me. I was charmed by her unique voice, and for a while (Storms through Flyer) I made sure to purchase new Griffith material when it came out. She was definitely a favorite during the first half of the 90s.

In the midst of my grief on Friday afternoon after saying goodbye to our family dog, news came over the wire about Griffith’s death. She never had that big hit song, but my social media feeds tell me how much her music meant to a lot of people. My two favorite albums of hers are Storms and Other Voices, Other Rooms, so I’ll toss out a couple of songs from each for your potential listening pleasure.

Always wondered if there was a semi-autobiographical element to this one.
From Austin City Limits; Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Indigo Girls are singing backup.
Yes, John Prine is singing along.
Written by Gordon Lightfoot; backup vocals by Iris DeMent.

Nanci’s final album was released in 2012, and it seems she’d kept a low profile in recent years. I do hope she understood how much her songs, her work, was appreciated. I know I’ll be getting those old cassettes out this week.

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