Nanci Griffith has the kind of beguiling singing voice that's effortless and easily beautiful -- like a pretty girl who doesn't ever need makeup to be radiant. Sounding a little bit like Emmylou Harris is never a bad thing, but Griffith doesn't stop there. She duets with Harris and a host of other country and folk notables on Other Voices, Other Rooms, her first collection of cover songs. Like Harris, Griffith can climb inside a character-driven song with a simple twist of inflection or a lingering note. This is what she does on Vince Bell's "Woman of the Phoenix," deftly painting images of a winter freeze, cacti, and Michael, the "rock 'n' roll hood from the Odessa plains." Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" rambles like the Texas countryside and features the man himself on harmonica. The guest list for Other Voices really is incredible. Alison Krauss, John Gorka, Edgar Meyer, Amy Ray, and Emily Saliers -- it's a regular homespun who's who. There's plenty to sigh about here, and occasionally the album can almost be too tasteful for its own good. But raveups like Woody Guthrie's "Do-Re-Mi" let Griffith trade some serenity for dustbowl grit (the addition of John Prine's lascivious gruffness helps a lot, too), and the frustrated anger of "This Old Town" only supports this. What might be most refreshing about Other Voices, Other Rooms is its ability to access the warm tones of country, grassroots, 1960s folk, and the '70s songwriting tradition while still sounding more like it comes from Griffith's Texas roots than anywhere else. This is highly recommended for fans of Griffith or any of the like-minded artists who help out here.
Other Voices, Other Rooms Review
by Johnny Loftus