Nanci Griffith

Winter Marquee

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Artistically speaking, Nanci Griffith has been in somewhat of a funk since 1998's Other Voices, Too. 1999's The Dust Bowl Symphony offered a syrupy greatest-hits package and 2001's Clock Without Hands, her first new material in several years, seemed both over-produced and overwrought. To further muddy the picture, Rounder released three early Griffith albums in 2002, reminding listeners how well she could write. Also released by Rounder, the live Winter Marquee is the first new album Griffith has released on the label since the mid-'80s. Following the reissues, it seems like something of a homecoming. The straightforward, hour-long set is made up of old favorites, a couple recent pieces, and a few covers. Accompanied by a country-folk band, Griffith's vocals take center stage to offer fine versions of "I'm Not Drivin' These Wheels" and "The Flyer." She's in great voice, and one of the pleasures of her music has always been the way she lovingly lingers over phrases for emphasis. She's joined by a couple of special guests, including Emmylou Harris on "Good Night, New York" and Tom Russell on "What's that I Hear" and "White Freight Liner." The set is also strengthened by the inclusion of less-frequently covered pieces like "There's a Light Beyond These Woods." While Winter Marquee may lack the spark of an early album like Once in a Very Blue Moon, fans will enjoy this live set.

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