“It is Griffith’s clear, soaring voice that dominates everything, somewhat reminiscent of Sandy Denny, but unmistakably individual. Make no mistake, this is a beautiful album, and recommended not only to Celtic fans but to all who appreciate fine music.” — Jeremy Isaacs, Maverick, June 2003.
Produced by grammy nominee, Marcy Marxer. Featuring Grace’s unique interpretations of great songs by great writers set in arrangements ranging from sparse guitar and cello accompaniment to lush productions.
Grace Griffith’s album, MinstrelSong, brings to mind recent recordings by Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, in which the singers get a chance to interpret a collection of hand-picked songs. It doesn’t take long, though, before it becomes clear that Griffith’s MinstrelSong has a beauty and logic of its own.
A mixture of traditional and contemporary material, the album, says Griffith, is meant to honor “the role that singers have played in society throughout time.” Nothing here underscores that premise better than “The Minstrel”, Graham Pratt’s sweeping, narrative ballad and a vivid reminder of Griffith’s folk roots. For the most part, though, the tone of the album is more intimately compelling, thanks in part to Griffith’s inspired performances of tunes composed by Iris Dement (“My Life”), Jane Siberry (“Bound By The Beauty”), John Martyn (“May You Never”) and Richard Farina (“Swallow Song”).
This collection reflects Griffith’s eclectic taste, ranging from traditional songs such as the Scottish ballad Searching for Lambs and the Irish toast Kind Friends and Companions to works by contemporary songwriters such as Jane Siberry (Bound by the Beauty) and Bruce Cockburn (Wondering Where the Lions Are). Audiophiles will appreciate the sound fidelity achieved by producer Marcy Marxer and recording engineer Jim Robeson (Bias Recording Studio).
Music lovers will enjoy the variety of repertory, set in arrangments ranging from the sparse guitar and cello accompaniment of Gerry O’Beirne’s Half Moon Bay and poignant yet freeflowing guitar work by Zan McLeod on Kind Friends and Companions to lush productions of Richard Farina’s Swallow Song (haunting multi-tracked guitar work by O’Beirne combined with vocal overlays by Griffith) and the title cut (dressed out in synthesizer effects and varied instruments).
The album is enhanced by the fine musicianship of Al Petteway and others, and a guest appearance by Dougie McLean comes as a rare surprise. Griffith’s predeliction for songs of a reflective nature shows here, most strikingly in her treatment of Iris Dement’s lovely and bittersweet My Life, but gravity is pleasurably balanced with celebration, as in McLean’s joyous, I Feel So Near and John Martyn’s benediction May You Never.
This album had been a while coming (Griffith’s last solo release was 1996), but as Griffith’s soothing and ethereal voice graces the closing lyric
…til there’s no more time for singing and til we reach the story’s end, I’ll always find the strength within me to rise and sing my song again…
Even if Minstrel Song were stripped of its thematic premise and flattering arrangements, Griffith’s marveous voice would provide these songs with a unifying grace and allure.
—Mike Joyce, Washington Post.
This woman has the voice of an angel and has never sounded better than she does here…you can never have enough music like this! —Chaos Realm