Before recording her first album of all-new material since 2005, Nanci Griffith suffered a serious case of writer’s block. “The direction the country was going in broke my heart,” the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter recalls. “I didn’t want to write.”
Reading various newspapers while following the presidential campaign, Griffith reconnected with her muse. After the election, “the dam burst and everything came out.”
Her creative gusher resulted in the June 9 Rounder release “The Loving Kind,” which includes nine songs co-written by Griffith as well as four covers. The album finds the folk/country musician returning to her social-commentator roots while exploring matters of the heart.
The album gets off to a powerful start with the title track. It’s the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving, whose interracial marriage landed the couple in jail in 1958. Their case, Loving v. Virginia, led to a landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision declaring marriage a basic civil right. After reading Mildred’s obituary, Griffith cried “before writing the song in 10 minutes. It amazed me that there was so little fanfare about possibly one of the most important cases in this country.”
Equally arresting is another headline-inspired song, “Not Innocent Enough.” It focuses on Tennessee inmate Philip Workman, who was executed despite new evidence proving his innocence. Leavening the album’s serious tones, Griffith covers songs by her “songwriting hero” Dee Moeller and Edwina Hayes. She shifts into uplifting mode on “Across America” — “probably the most commercial song I’ve ever written.”
Rounder is mounting an aggressive multimedia marketing campaign to promote the album and Griffith kicks off the first leg of a national tour on June 26 in Atlanta.
Noting that she hasn’t had “this much chatter about a record of mine in 20 years,” Griffith hopes her “The Loving Kind” will simply make a “difference in people’s lives and hearts. That’s the most important thing.”