By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
In her liner notes on Flyer, Nanci Griffith speaks of a "new writing approach." For those who've sampled the delicacies that are her previous 11 albums, however, don't panic. Griffith continues to be among the finest folk lyricists, melodists and singers we have going for us here in the junk-food-music world of Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and--God help us all--Michael Bolton. If she perceives fundamental changes in her writing, it's but her own ultrasensitive, introspective nature, and we believe she means it.
On "Say It Isn't So," Griffith teams with country songwriting legend Harlan Howard to produce a rich, elegantly rendered ballad. Griffith's pervasive Irish influences (she signs her notes from Franklin, Tennessee, and Dublin, Ireland, and enlists the Chieftains in one song--"On Grafton Street"--here) come to the fore in the dobro-rich "These Days in an Open Book," and "Fragile," the latter a lilting and lyrical ballad filled with James Hooker's harpsichord as well as rich mandocello and triumphant flugelhorn.
Perhaps the finest offering here, however, is the socially conscious "Time of Inconvenience," a swiftly paced, fittingly strident objection to the way of this white world: "We're living in the age of communication/Where the only voices heard have money in their hands/Where greed has become a sophistication/And if you ain't got money/You ain't got nothin' in this land."
Despite Griffith's claim to have embarked upon some new manner of writing, "Time of Inconvenience"--and most others in this rarefied Flyer--will have Griffith aficionados as appreciative as ever.
No, it's not the Bobby Goldsboro chestnut of the same name--not even suave Bobby P. has that much cheek. Although, after hearing Palmer do the near-impossible a few years back--a Marvin Gaye cover that compares favorably to the original--he could probably make even Goldsboro's "Watching Scotty Grow" an endurable listen.
Honey is yet another stylish runway turn for Palmer, a most intriguing adult-contemporary artist, if that's indeed what he is. How many such artists do you know who can pull off a credible, Jobimlike samba ("Honeymoon"), a Caribbean jaunt ("Honey B"), a Devo cover ("Girl U Want"), a Prince pastiche ("You're Mine") and crunching heavy metal ("Big Trouble"). Unlike Bowie, who now mines the same turf unsuccessfully, Palmer hits the mark because we never considered him a visionary to begin with, just a guy with impeccably good taste in music.
If you wrote Palmer's music off based on the fashion-models-as-rock-band videos of past years, give a listen to the inventive "Close to the Edge" or "Big Trouble." You'll be pleasantly surprised to hear Palmer ruin the crease of his jacket singing lines like "I'll knock your nose right out of joint/The demolition of your whole world of attrition." It's anarchy in a three-piece suit--honest!