NANCI GRIFFITH: ONE FAIR SUMMER EVENING...PLUS!
Review by Ed Nguyen
Nanci Griffith, James Hooker, Denice Franke, Doug Hudson
Director: Bud Schaetzle
Audio: English Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1
Video: Color, full-frame
Studio: Universal Music
Features: Five music videos
Length: 61 minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2005
maybe you were thinking that you thought you knew me well,
no one ever knows the heart of anyone else's,
feel like Garbo in this late night Grande Hotel,
living alone is all I've ever done well.
Griffith is perhaps today's premier folk music singer-songwriter.
A soft-spoken Texan native with a gift for intimate and poetic songs,
Nanci frequently sings with tender conviction about relationships and
working-class difficulties. Possessing
a style full of grace and sincerity, this former kindergarten teacher has been
drawing admiration for her heartfelt brand of music since her 1978 debut album, There's
A Light Beyond These Woods.
early albums were a mixture of country and folk. Independently produced and released, these albums reflected a
grass roots, rural and working-class mentality. Towards the mid-1980's, however, Nanci Griffith signed with
MCA, which then embarked upon a mission to increase public awareness of this
fine singer's music.
recorded five albums for MCA, the third of which was her first live release, One
Fair Summer Evening (1988). The
release of this album coincided with the release of a concert video of the same
name, edited from her performances in August 1988 at the Anderson Fair in
Houston, Texas. Essentially an acoustic album, One Fair Summer Evening remains a fan favorite to this day, and
while it pre-dates some of her best works (the Grammy-winning Other
Voices, Other Rooms and Flyer),
the music presented on this live album represents some of Nanci Griffith's
finest songs and clearly demonstrates why she was already considered one of the
leading poets in American music at this early stage in her career.
Fair Summer Evening...Plus! brings the concert video to DVD for the first time.
The songs are performed with only sparse arrangements, with James Hooker
on keyboards backing Nanci on her acoustic guitar (and occasional back-up vocals
from Denice Franke and Doug Hudson). As
with the album itself, the concert remains another fan favorite and offers
first-time viewers a nostalgic look at Nanci Griffith nearing the height of her
popularity. Listed below are the songs which comprise the concert
Once In A Very Blue Moon - A sweet
ballad about the emotional aftermath of a broken relationship, this title track
from Nanci's third album opens the concert.
For those not in the know, a blue moon is that rare second full moon that
occurs within a single month.
More Than A Whisper - A bittersweet
lament about a lonely woman's search for love, this song and the next two come
from Nanci's fourth album, Last of the
True Believers (1986). This is
one of Nanci's most beautiful tunes and is certainly a highlight of the concert
Love At the Five and Dime - This song
tells a tale of new love for two young lovers.
The song also showcases Nanci's gift for narration as well as creative
Looking For the Time (Working Girl) -
This humorous tune is an upbeat jingle about, of all things, the humanistic side
Deadwood, South Dakota - Previously
unrecorded by Nanci, this quiet and sad song touches indirectly upon historical
social inequality for Native Americans.
Workin' In Corners - This song comes
from Nanci's second album, Poet in My
Window (1982). It is a
bittersweet tune about solitude and loneliness.
This song can also be heard playing over the DVD main menu.
From A Distance - From Nanci's fifth
album, Lone Star State of Mind (1987),
this Julie Gold-penned tune is probably most familiar to listeners from Bette
Midler's much-later pop version of it. Nanci's
rendition has a more folksy twang (of course) and receives a warmth reception
here from the Anderson Fair audience. This
song was Nanci's first Country Top 40 hit in America and a huge hit in Ireland.
I Would Bring You Ireland - The other
previously unrecorded song by Nanci on this DVD, this optimistic song is one of
hope and aspirations for the future mixed with reminiscences about the past.
This song is a tribute to Nanci's multitude of Irish fans, who have
afforded her near-superstar status in the United Kingdom.
Spin On A Red Brick Floor - Another
song from Nanci's second album, this upbeat tune is a cheerful dedication to
Anderson Fair itself and all the wonderful bygone memories of folk and bluegrass
performances upon its floors.
There's A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary
Margaret) - The title track to Nanci's debut album (1978), this melancholy
song is dedicated to a childhood friend. It
chronicles how the friendship, despite changing from the dreams and optimism of
youth through the reality of adulthood, has persevered through the years.
Wichita Falls Waltz - Nanci sings this
short a capella tune over the closing
credits. With this tune, she
demonstrates a winsome flair for encouraging audience participation.
of the One Fair Summer Evening CD will
notice track differences between the CD and the 44-minute concert footage.
In particular, Roseville Fair, Trouble in the Fields, and The
Wing and the Wheel are replaced in the concert video by There's
A Light Beyond These Woods and Wichita
Falls Waltz. Also, the versions
of the songs are not necessarily the same in the concert as on the CD.
listeners who enjoy the concert of One
Fair Summer Evening may wish to seek out some of Nanci Griffith's earlier
releases. The release of this DVD
was timed to coincide with the U.S. release of Nanci's latest CD, Hearts
in Mind (2005), an album praised as Nanci's finest studio effort since Flyer.
After nearly three decades of performance, Nanci Griffith still remains
one of the finest singer-songwriters around today.
isn't really much to recommend here from a visual standpoint.
The original concert footage looked fairly grainy and indistinct even on
VHS, and the transfer to DVD has not been significantly enhanced.
Skin tone is slightly reddish, and definition is definitely lacking at
times with much graininess and blockiness.
To be fair, these may all be inherent properties of the original footage,
shot in a mostly dark, nightclub setting. Understandably,
the image can become downright muddy in far shots but reveals more details in
close-ups. Still, with an average
transfer rate of only 5 Mbps, the lackluster image quality has room for
picture fares better on the music videos offered as bonus tracks.
These music videos feature a higher average bit transfer rate of 6.5
Mbps. Furthermore, since they were
filmed mostly in daylight or with better lighting facilities, the detail levels
are much finer.
is way the DVD truly shines! Listeners
have the option of choosing a stereo track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, or a DTS
5.1 track. The stereo and Dolby
tracks have a warmer and richer quality, while the DTS track possesses more
distinct audio separation among the speakers and has a more significant bass
tonal quality. Plus, the DTS track
is definitely louder, too.
One Fair Summer Evening, Nanci's next
album, Storms (1989), her fourth for
MCA and eighth overall, unveiled a shift towards a more polished, pop-oriented
sound. To promote Nanci's
"new" sound, music videos were produced for some of these new songs.
As a bonus feature (the ...Plus! portion of this DVD), those videos (17 min.) are presented
here. While they are slightly
atypical of the folk sound that defined Nanci's early career and her subsequent
career after leaving MCA, the tunes in these videos still demonstrate Nanci's
strong songwriting skills.
I Knew Love - This achingly-tender
love song comes from 1987's Little Love
Affairs, Nanci's first album for MCA..
This simply-photographed music video concentrates mainly on Nanci and the
song itself with little in the way of visual flair.
It is quite an effective video, the only downside being the dated so-80's
hairdo sported by Nanci. The song
also became Nanci's second Country Top 40 hit.
It's A Hard Life Wherever You Go -
This Irish-like folk tune is a precautionary chronicle of the hardships suffered
by children for the sins of the fathers. This
song of social commentary comes from the Storms album.
I Don't Want To Talk About Love - This
is a gem of a love ballad, also from Storms.
Nanci Griffith frequently looks quite beautiful in this black & white
video. Of her songs to date, I
Don't Want To Talk About Love is probably the most pop-like yet still
maintains her distinctive, folk-like quality.
Late Night Grande Hotel - This is the
title track from Nanci's fifth and final MCA album, released in 1991.
Among her videos, this one looks most like a "normal" pop
video, with Nanci cavorting about in a strangely puffy prom dress.
The song also possesses the production values of a pop-radio tune
although at its core remains a heartfelt folk song about loneliness.
Well Alright (w/ The Crickets) - This
is a cover of a Buddy Holly tune from the 1996 tribute album Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly). It's quite infectious catchy and is also the song that plays
over the "Features" menu on the DVD.