Nanci's folk-country sound can't neatly be classified (she calls it "folkabilly"), but her deeply confessional songs have earned acclaim for decades. This 22-track collection draws from her prime 1987-1991 MCA period with her hits Lone Star State of Mind; I Knew Love; Trouble in the Fields; Cold Hearts/Closed Minds ; her original recording of Outbound Plane ; four live cuts, and more!
Well, the title is misleading, as this collection showcases only her MCA era; a more accurate designation would be From a Distance: The Best Stuff Nanci Griffith Did After She Left Philo and Before She Went to Elektra
, but maybe that's not catchy enough. What is
compelling is the music itself. During the period of 1987 to 1991, Griffith wrote some of her best material. She also discovered Julie Gold's classic title song, but found herself floundering commercially in her transition from folkabilly queen to arch chanteuse. Griffith's Philo records are still the most memorable--loose and full of Texas ranginess and sawdust memories. But this compilation is surprisingly satisfying, as it ends just before she began to take herself too seriously. You can hear a tinkling banjo driving "Lone Star State of Mind" and a pedal steel guitar as hillbilly as the Grand Ole Opry on "Ford Econoline." Her little-girl voice modulates to fetching reediness when necessary and even dips into deep Texas in the spoken intros to several live performances. But what stands out is the overall quality of the writing, which turns stunning on the wistful "Gulf Coast Highway" and on "Trouble in the Fields." If the reason for Griffith's status as a cult artist has eluded you, this anthology should go a long way toward clearing up the mystery. --Alanna Nash