Hearts in Mind
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2005, Volume 12, #2
Written by John Metzger
Hearts in Mind is Nanci Griffith’s 12th studio release to feature original material, and quite frankly, she’s never sounded better. After spending the bulk of her career trying to craft music that fit within the restrictive confines of the Nashville and the pop music scenes, Griffith quit trying, and as a result, she now sounds more relaxed, confident, and comfortable. Building upon the success of her 2001 outing Clock without Hands, her latest endeavor boasts a similarly sublime convergence of country, folk, and rock. Much like its predecessor, Hearts in Mind strikes the perfect balance between tales of war-torn nations and those of conflict-addled relationships, while splashing a bright light of uplifting hope and a flickering flame of mournful remembrance across the souls of each. Granted, there are moments when Griffith still clings tightly to her tendency of veering into overly precious sentimentality, but this time, even among the album’s most egregious errors — her reflection on love (Rise to the Occasion), Le Ann Etheridge’s narrative on the tumultuous union of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (Back When Ted Loved Sylvia), and Julie Gold’s ode to the victims of the World Trade Center’s catastrophic destruction (Mountain of Sorrow) — her efforts don’t feel nearly as forced as they once did. Indeed, despite her tastefully delicate arrangements, there’s a newfound organic edge that ripples through much of Hearts in Mind, filling the songs with a warm, emotional resonance. Her memorials to those who died in Vietnam (Heart of Indochine and Old Hanoi) bristle with emotion, while the dobro-kissed bounce of Simple Life and Last Train Home radiate an easy-going charm. The finest song on Hearts in Mind, however, is Beautiful, a loving tribute to her stepfather that achieves the gloriously subtle textures that forever have escaped Griffith’s grasp. Indeed, it appears as if 27 years into her career, she finally has found the courage to trust her instincts and make the sort of music that she’s always longed to create. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box