Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Nanci Griffith

  • The Last of the True Believers [Philo, 1986] B-
  • Lone Star State of Minid [MCA, 1987] B
  • Little Love Affairs [MCA, 1988] B+
  • Storms [MCA, 1989] C+
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms [Elektra, 1993] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Last of the True Believers [Philo, 1986]
Among the signifiers jammed into the back-cover portrait are an acoustic guitar and a Larry McMurtry novel--not just a folkie, a literary folkie, from Texas, get it? Yes, we see. We see auburn hair in a French roll, white shawl thrown casually over antique flower-print dress, eyes demurely downcast. A mite precious, all told, with songs to match. Bet she reads Bobbie Ann Mason, too, but there's just no prose in her. What's amazing is that she almost gets away with it. On "Lookin' for the Time (Workin' Girl)," about a prostitute who can't afford a heart of gold, she does get away with it. I think it's the melody. B-

Lone Star State of Minid [MCA, 1987]
Band's the same, and there's not a whole hell of a lot of distance between Jim Rooney, a marketwise old folk pro, and Tony Brown, a principled neo country pro. Yet Brown's production provides the soupcon of schlock that turns the raucous "Ford Econoline" into a landmark of country feminism as well as saving "Trouble in the Fields," about noble victims selling the new John Deere to till their family farm with their own sweat and sinew. Too often, though, she's still a folkie playing just folks. B

Little Love Affairs [MCA, 1988]
For Griffith, the notion that the past was better than the present isn't just a bias, it's a worldview--consider "I Knew Love" ("when it was more than just a word") or "Love Wore a Halo Back Before the War" (WWII, she means). And with Tony Brown pushing her ever more firmly toward such marketable cliches as the raunchy growl and the pedal-steel whine, she's one neotraditionalist with a future. If you can forgive "I Knew Love"'s purism, first side doesn't quit--the regrets of "Anybody Can Be Somebody's Fool" and "So Long Ago" are as permanent as they come. Second side's got John Stewart as Waylon Jennings and real country songs by the auteur. B+

Storms [MCA, 1989]
Having gained her precious country credibility, she promptly released a live acoustic best-of. Now she asks the never-say-die Glyn Johns to . . . what? Turn her into Suzanne Vega? I don't know. But I expect she thinks it has something to do with art. C+

Other Voices, Other Rooms [Elektra, 1993] Dud