To say the least, The Dust Bowl Symphony is an ambitious effort on Nanci Griffith's behalf, an attempt to recast several of her songs in the context of a suite, complete with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. Intriguing idea, but one that doesn't really quite work. Griffith sounds her best in intimate surroundings, which this album clearly illustrates; often, the songs themselves are lost in the swirl of strings, and it's hard to find their emotional core. It's not a complete disaster and there are some moments that work (surprisingly, duets with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Darius Rucker feel more successful than the cuts that just feature Griffith), but ultimately this is a curious, unfruitful detour in an adventurous career. When you take as many risks as Griffith does, it's inevitable that some projects won't work out as well as others.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine