Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 6 July 1953, Seguin TX, near Austin; d 13 August 2021, Nashville) Singer, songwriter, guitarist; one of the more exciting 'new country' artists, described in a newspaper article as a 'folkabilly poet' writing 'walking novels', with an ear for dialogue and real people's lives. She was a schoolteacher, worked nights in bars and roadhouses until music won out; she contributed three songs to a folk sampler on BF Deal Records '77, made her first album 'live' in a studio in Austin: There's A Light Beyond These Woods '78 on Philo (Rounder) comprised her own songs plus one by her then husband, singer-songwriter Eric Taylor. There's A Poet In My Window '82 included 'Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown', by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and John Reed. Once In A Very Blue Moon '84 was produced in Nashville by Jim Rooney, included Richard Dobson's 'Ballad Of Robin Wintersmith' and the title song by Pat Alger and Fred Koller: this album achieved some radio play and was something of a breakthrough. She named her small band the Blue Moon Orchestra and began touring solo outside Texas; the real breakthrough came with The Last Of The True Believers '85, with Nashville sidemen like Bela Fleck on banjo, Mark O'Connor on fiddle, and her song 'Love At The Five And Dime', covered for a no. 3 country hit by Kathy Mattea '86 on Mercury (Lynn Anderson covered her songs 'Fly By Night' and 'Daddy Said').

On the strength of the Mattea hit she was signed to MCA, where her first album was Lone Star State Of Mind '87, produced by Tony Brown, including another Alger/Koller title song, Paul Kennerley's 'Let It Shine On Me', her own 'Ford Econoline' (covered by Anderson), a remake of 'There's A Light Beyond These Woods' and Julie Gold's 'From A Distance', which Griffith co-published: this was an international hit, covered by Bette Midler, Cliff Richard and Mattea, while Griffith's superior original remained an album track. Little Love Affairs '88 has a duet with John Stewart and was accompanied the same year by a live set, One Fair Summer Evening, one of those digital recordings with the sound too cold and close, with messy sibilants. She built up a huge following in Europe, worked with producer Glyn Johns on Storms '89, achieved superstar status in Ireland, working with the Chieftains and featured on their album The Bells Of Dublin '91. She used British producers Rod Argent and Peter Van Hooke for Late Night Grande Hotel '91, then signed to Elektra, returning to her folky roots for Other Voices, Other Rooms '93, with guests Chet Atkins, Bob Dylan, Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, John Prine etc, followed by Flyer '95, guests including Mark Knopfler. She also writes short stories and novels. She was one of those true artists who will record strong songs by others as well as her own, instead of feeling obligated to fill a set with half-cooked originals, so that each album was a strong set indeed. Then she switched to Elektra, with guests the Crickets and Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish, for Blue Roses From The Moons '97; she seemed to be moving away from country-folk, and some critics were confused. Fans would have to decide whether she was striking out towards new territory or towards Las Vegas. Interestingly, Emmylou Harris, Suzanne Vega and Ireland's Mary Black were also breaking new ground in the mid- '90s; maybe you just can't keep a good woman down any more.