Grace Griffith

My Life

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Although her passionate voice and pop/folk vibe brings Joni Mitchell instantly to mind, and her voice has the ethereal, emotional magic of Sarah McLachlan, Grace Griffith will no doubt bear more comparisons to the late Eva Cassidy for a handful of reasons. First, the exquisite and haunting My Life is her fourth recording for Blix Street, the label that made Cassidy -- also a Maryland native who made her local mark in Washington, D.C. -- a posthumous phenomenon. Cassidy's producer, Chris Biondo, is a co-producer here as well. The sadder connection is another tragedy, as Griffith has been battling Parkinson's Disease since 1998, and who knows how much longer her voice will be as stunning and pure as it is here? Even without knowing that, listeners are sure to pay rapt emotional attention to the heartbreaking, inspiring opening ballad, "My Life"; Griffith recorded it previously on her 2000 album MinstrelSong, but the addition of strings here adds to the poignancy. "Hills of Shiloh" is impressionistic, Mitchell-like poetic magic, while the similarly subtle yet heart-tugging "Calling All Angels" helps Griffith put life and her condition in perspective. Griffith will also gain a Cassidy comparison for turning a Sting classic (this time "Shape of My Heart") into her own bittersweet reflection, but she's just as warm and inviting on Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night." Despite the variety of sources for her songs, Griffith's voice ties it all together and her producers have the good sense to know they are surrounded by greatness, thus limiting themselves to bare essential backing tracks. If this is the last heard from Griffith on disc, it will indeed be a tragedy. On the other hand, one can console oneself by realizing it would be hard to top.

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