Nanci Griffith

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Intersection Review

by Thom Jurek

Songwriter Nanci Griffith's Intersection is the mirror image of her last album, 2009's The Loving Kind. Where that album dealt with issues of hope in struggle and the transformative power of love to overcome even the most monumental of obstacles, Intersection, by contrast, is a record about struggle (personal and political), loneliness, and losses. Recorded at her home studio in Nashville with co-producers Pete and Maura Kennedy and Pat McInerney, the 12 songs here were cut by this small group with a handful of sporadic guests filling out the roster. The centerpiece seems to be "Hell No (I'm Not Alright)," which has been branded a political song. Its uptempo, Buddy Holly-influenced shimmy is, in reality, a deeply personal one; a raging kiss-off to a former lover. "Bethlehem Steel" was written immediately after performing in front of the long abandoned mill in the Pennsylvania city that inspired Billy Joel's "Allentown"; its images, poetry, and clear focus get to the heart of her subject and remind us that Griffith is no ordinary songwriter. While she gets some of the song's cultural and historical references wrong, they don't distract from its devastating truth. The title cut is a testament to the hard times Griffith has endured -- she doesn't name them but they include two different bouts with cancer, loss of family, friends, and romantic tragedies -- the grit of real life. Her matter-of-fact tenderness in embracing it all is part of what has endeared her to fans; its poetry and warm, seamless meld of acoustic and electric guitars underscore her trademarks. Her reading of Blaze Foley's "If I Could Only Fly," is a fitting tribute to Austin's late outsider songman. "Just Another Morning Here" is from earlier in Griffith's career, but this version is definitive, seasoned as it is by hard-won wisdom."Come On Up Mississippi," the only overtly political song on the recording, carries a fife-and-drum band percussive march by McInerney, and features blues slide guitar from Pete Kennedy as well as a backing choir. The set closes with a stomping country-bluegrass cover of Loretta Lynn's "High on a Mountain Top." Admirers of Griffith's earliest recordings will no doubt delight in Intersection as much for its familiarity as the quality of its songwriting and performances.

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