by Mary-Ann Brandon
This weekend, June 11, 12, and 13, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad will present Nanci Griffith as their headline artist for the ongoing Roots and Boots Summer Music Festival. What a treat for Southern Colorado!
A native of Texas, transplanted to Nashville, this Grammy award winning artist has managed to become a highly respected artist as a songwriter and for her interpretations of carefully selected outside material. Griffith was the first person to record Julie Gold’s classic song “From A Distance” that went on to become a monster hit for Bette Midler. It is this knack for knowing a great song that has garnered her such high praise. Driven by a strong social conscience, Griffith refers to Townes Van Zant as being her “dearest mentor.” Her style falls somewhere between classic Pete Seeger folk and Emmylou Harris country/rock of the 1970s.
On her latest recording, entitled The Loving Kind, Griffith continues to explore subjects that speak to her distaste for social injustice. The title song tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loring a mixed race couple who were jailed in 1958 for marrying. Their case was eventually struck down when it reached the Supreme Court, along with all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. From Nanci’s bio: “I read Mildred Loving’s obituary in The New York Times and it just floored me,” says Griffith. “She never remarried after Richard died and in her last interview before she passed she expressed hope that their case, Loving v. Virginia, would eventually be the open door to same sex marriage.”
She writes about LBJ’s dedication to social reform in the song “The Cotton’s All We Got” and about national hope in “Across America”. Yet it is her song “Not Innocent Enough” that speaks volumes about Griffith and her strong beliefs. A staunch opponent of the death penalty, she writes of Phillip Workman’s execution. A man convicted of murdering a police officer with tainted testimony. As she states, it is human imperfection and the finality of the punishment that inspired this song.
Accompanying Griffith on guitar will be her sometime song collaborator Tomm Jutz, and on percussion, Pat McInerney. Two outstanding Nashville based musicians representing the land masses across the Atlantic ocean. McInerney hails from England while Jutz comes from a tiny village in Germany. Both at the top of their field in Music City U.S.A., their contribution to the show is bound to be a highlight. Also accompanying Griffith will be her tour manager, Phil Kaufman, the notorious "Road Mangler Deluxe".
Opening for Griffith will be Taos favorite and semi-regular visitor to Huerfano County, Michael Hearne. Beautiful melodies and lyrics evocative of life in the Southwest are his trademark.
To see video and generally learn more about Nanci, visit her website at: www.nancigriffith.com. To purchase tickets or to get general information about the summer concert series, check out the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad website at: www.scenicrailroad.com and then click on the Roots and Boots Summer Music Festival icon.