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Nanci Griffith

Ruby's Torch – 2006 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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CDs by Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith, once the darling of alt.-country, before it was called that, is back on Rounder, the label with which she began her career and is referred to in the press kit as a "folkabilly" artist. Rounder apparently didn't get the word that the years away had wrought some changes.

The evolution from the twangy, chirpy naif is now apparently complete - unless maybe she records Aida. Griffith herself refers to this in the booklet as a record of torch songs, though it contains little of the passion that term implies.

The themes as well as Griffith's delivery all have a subdued stateliness that can slide the listener straight on in to somnolence if one misses the Importance of these works or the artistic freedom they represent or whatever it is we're supposed to respect about this change in Griffith.

Of course, there's still that nagging suspicion that she just ain't this kind of singer, doesn't have the pipes to pull it off. She takes on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," and, sure, you can't expect anyone to match Ol' Blue Eyes octave for octave, emotion for emotion, but the only thing Griffith has in common with Sinatra is over-enunciation. Meanwhile, chestnuts like "Bluer Than Blue" seem to have been chosen for their blandness. Griffith, alas, did not know what to do with the torch.