The Loving Kind from Howie Klein.
When I mentioned to Rolling Stone writer (and author) Eric Boehlert that I was going to be talking with Nanci Griffith, his response was positively over the top. "I'm such a big fan. Right after college I discovered her. Sorta weird, I was such a huge rock fan and suddenly at 22 and 24 years old I'm listening to "Spin On A Red Brick Floor," and "Gulf Coast Highway." My friends thought I was nuts." Now they probably think he was prescient. Eric reminded me that Nanci was part of the proud and breathtaking legacy of MCA/Nashville President Tony Brown, along with Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett. Brown produced her biggest charting country album, Lone Star State of Mind but these days most people think of her as a folk singer.
Funny, she always has seen herself that way. "I've always written about social issues," she told me on the phone a couple of days ago, "because I consider myself a folk song writer. I started writing "Not Innocent Enough," [the chillingly gorgeous song about the 2007 execution of Philip Workman from The Loving Kind] 4 years ago, long before Philip was executed. It just didn't have an ending. Sometimes an issue like that one... it just takes a while to see how it's going to reconcile itself." A decade and a half ago Nanci won a Grammy (Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms.
And the death penalty is hardly the only contentious issue Nanci has taken on with her new album-- which will be out June 9. The title track is what hooked me to the album and opened me up to her new record. "The Loving Kind" floored me and I couldn't wait to make a clip for it and write about it. I had never heard about the precedent-setting Loving v Virginia Supreme Court case, which led to an ending to dozens of states' laws that criminalized interracial marriage, until I listened to Nanci sing it. She had never heard about it until she read Mildred Loving's obituary in 2007. "I read that obituary and I just broke down in tears, that I had never heard of this case. It really struck me, especially Mildred's comments about gay marriage. It just brings the whole thing home-- her hopes and her dreams that someday, although she was not a political person, that their case, Loving v Virginia would make a difference for people who are in love with each other. Government does not belong in love."
In 2004 Nanci joined with other progressives in the Nashville music scene to form the Music Row Democrats which worked to prevent Bush from getting an undeserved second term. She said she was surprised by the response. "We all came out of the closet because Nashville is pretty much known as a Republican town and all of these record executives and music people and publishers came out as Music Row Democrats. There were people who never in my life would have thought were Democrats." I asked her if she'd ever considered running against Nashville's reactionary Blue Dog congressman, Jim Cooper. Unfortunately, she laughed.
"I could never get into politics; my past doesn't hold up too well. Being on NPR talking about all the LSD I did when I was in my teenage years... I don't think will hold up very well in running for office... The first song I remember writing was 'Where Are You Now, Dr. Timothy Leary' and I clearly wrote the song when I was doing LSD. I made it through typing class on LSD"
Anyway, Nanci has a bigger stage than Jim Cooper anyway and her songs move and effect a lot more people than his speeches. Judging my the artistic growth in evidenced in The Loving Kind she'll be writing songs for many, many years to come. I doubt anything's going to ever shut her up. When I asked her about the Bush Regime allies who savaged the Dixie Chicks and tried putting them out of business, I could hear the edge of anger in her sweet voice. "I never stopped saying whatever I was saying against the Bush administration abroad. I don't care what those people who crucified the Dixie Chicks... they're not my fans anyway."
Before joining us in the comments section below, please give yourself a treat and listen to "The Loving Kind" up at the top of this post.