From the opening downbeat of John Prine’s “Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness” to the last twang of the electric guitar on Townes Van Zandt’s uptempo “White Freight Liner” that closes the fourteen-track disc, Winter Marquee manages to pull off that rare feat: It captures the spirit of a live performance and puts it vividly in your living room. (The companion DVD lets you see it as well.)
Nanci Griffith’s seventeenth album since 1978, and her first on Rounder since 1986′s Last Of The True Believers, finds the country-folk singer-songwriter in top form, with a gilded, evocative voice that rings as true as that of her pal Emmylou Harris (who sings along on Julie Gold’s “Good Night, New York”). Her longtime companions in the five-piece Blue Moon Orchestra provide impressively astute instrumentation, the notes dropping into just the right spaces.
Far from being a greatest hits set — although “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)”, “The Flyer” and “Gulf Coast Highway” are here — Griffith has chosen favorite older originals (many of them from the ’80s) and seminal covers, including Bob Dylan’s “Boots Of Spanish Leather”, Phil Ochs’ “What’s That I Hear” (with Tom Russell on vocals and guitar), and the aforementioned selections by Prine, Gold and Van Zandt.
The enthusiastic applause of Knoxville’s Tennessee Theatre audience is appropriately muted in the mix, but the response from the home audience won’t be.