For her third MCA album, Nanci Griffith recorded a live set at Houston's Anderson Fair club in August 1988, and she brought along a camera crew for good measure, resulting in this ten-track, 44-minute video companion to the audio album. (There are variations in the track listing. The 12-track audio version adds "Roseville Fair," "Trouble in the Fields," and "The Wing and the Wheel," but does not contain "There's a Light Beyond These Woods [Mary Margaret]" or "Wichita Falls Waltz.") While Griffith's move to Nashville and subsequent signing to MCA brought more elaborate production and a move toward more mainstream country, One Fair Summer Evening presents the Nanci Griffith familiar to club audiences for a decade, speaking in an invitingly small voice near a whisper but providing humorous and personal introductions and stories to introduce her intimate songs, sung carefully and feelingly with only a bass and keyboard to accompany her acoustic guitar. Griffith works up more of a sweat on the first-person account of a streetwalker, "Looking for the Time (Workin' Girl)," and urges a lover to declare his love in "More Than a Whisper," but for the most part her style is calm and gentle, and it is particularly effective in her story-songs "Love at the Five and Dime" and "There's a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)," the songs that attracted attention for her beyond Texas. "I Would Bring You Ireland" and the a cappella closer, "Wichita Falls Waltz," are excellent new songs, and her version of Julie Gold's "From a Distance" (which she performed long before Bette Midler borrowed it and made it a hit two years after this video was shot) is presented forcefully. Especially in the video version, which displays the singer/songwriter's poise and delicate beauty to advantageous effect, One Fair Summer Evening is an excellent introduction to Nanci Griffith. For the 2005 DVD reissue dubbed One Fair Summer Evening...Plus!, MCA added five music videos made to promote Griffith's recordings of the late '80s and early '90s for the label. They trace the different ways MCA tried to market Griffith, from the melancholy "I Knew Love" (a Top 40 country hit) to the socially conscious "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go," which bravely linked "the Irish troubles" to the American civil rights movement. "I Don't Want to Talk About Love," set in a black-and-white New York City, and "Late Night Grande Hotel" dated from Griffith's switch to MCA's pop division and were a far cry from her country style. Even more pop was "Well...All Right," from the 1996 tribute album, Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly), which featured models in '50s clothes at a bowling alley and found Griffith surrounded and accompanied by the original Crickets.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: The Crickets