Grace Griffith,
Sands of Time
(Blix Street, 2003)

Grace Griffith is simply enchanting. She carries images in her voice. Warmth and comfort engulf you when she sings.

As her first two Blix Street albums have shown, she has an ear for a good song, though normally she delves into the world of folk and Celtic music for material. On Sands of Time, however, she widens the net and includes compositions by such mainstream writers as Leonard Bernstein and Lerner & Lowe, along with the likes of the more expected writers from the folk world -- Kris Kristofferson and Peter Rowan, among others, as well as traditional material.

The songs she chooses take new form with her. Digging deep into the inner meanings, she reinterprets them and presents them in a fresh, heartfelt way. A standard like "Black is the Color" is given a new lease on life with its jazz arrangement. Her pure vocals take on a smoky quality as she slides from phrase to phrase.

"Almost Like Being in Love," from the musical Brigadoon, acquires a lazy bossa nova treatment, but develops an eerie atmosphere when she adds a double-tracked harmony. "'Til They Discovered Music" is playful but not lightweight; she creates a close-knit "Griffith Sisters" effect as she harmonizes with herself on the swing accompaniment.

Crossing international boundaries, she performs "Summer (Estate)," an Italian song with English lyrics. It could easily be a Stan Getz tune -- her sultry voice is sax-like, set against a delicious guitar, bass, piano and percussion accompaniment. By contrast, "Rebirth," a 1,000-year-old Vietnamese poem set to music, presents another facet of her interpretations. It is ethereal and wispy with its arpeggios on piano; the whistle and voices bend as though in a gentle breeze as they present Grace's new age side.

She is accompanied by a wide range of instruments -- guitar, keyboards, bass, violin, viola, cello, saxophone, bouzouki, mandolin, clarinet and more -- played by a score or more musicians. Although it is overall a quiet album, each song has its own tension and character, enhanced by the excellent arrangements. Grace's strong performances create an appealing continuity.

Ten of the 11 tracks are produced by Marcy Marxer (who also adds her vocal and multi-instrumental talents), Lenny Williams (who adds piano) and Chris Biondo (bass). This trio has excellently captured Grace's wide ranging voice, as well as the diverse sounds of the many instruments, creating a warm, welcoming album. The title track was produced by Jennifer Cutting (who also composed the song and added keyboard accompaniment).

Recently, Grace experienced health problems that have affected her whole life. As a result, she has gained a new perspective that seems to be reflected in Sands of Time. There is an even greater depth to her performance, as well as a more adventurous choice of material than on either of her two earlier solo albums. She shows she can handle other styles with ease and that the potential she has shown in the past is now being fulfilled.

Grace Griffith has long been one of my favorite singers and it is pleasing to know that this album will bring her greater exposure and introduce her to a wider audience.

- Rambles
written by Jamie O'Brien
published 9 August 2003

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