My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review – Nanci Griffith – ‘Little Love Affairs’

Released in 1988, Little Love Affair was Nanci Griffith’s second album for MCA with Tony Brown at the helm. Like Lone Star State of Mind it proved a marginal success with three low-charting singles. The record itself would peak at #27.

The very slow “I Knew Love” charted first, peaking at #37. Written by Roger Brown, it tells the story of a woman who knew love back when it was good, and more than just a word. While the piano-laced arrangement is easy on the ears, I found the near-whisper of the vocal hard to listen to.

The much better “Never Mind” would be issued next, peaking in the low 50s. A classic honky-tonker, it opens with bouncy steel that remains steady throughout. I quite like this one, as Griffith turns in a sweet vocal and nicely brings the lyrics to life.

The more mainstream “Anyone Can Be Somebody’s Fool” would be the final charting single, peaking at #68. The song, written by Griffith, is excellent but her vocal is likely what kept this from breaking through as it wasn’t mainstream enough to have been in step with the times back then.

The rest of Little Love Affairs continues the dance of songs that were just a little bit out of touch with the neotraditionalist movement, mixed with some real gems.

My favorite tracks on the album are the livelier numbers. “Love Wore A Halo (Back Before The War)” chugs along with a wonderful dobro and acoustic guitar driven arrangement. “Outbound Plane” is excellent, too, although I’m partial to the Suzy Bogguss version. It’s neat to hear Griffith’s songwriter take on the song, but the rapid-fire lyrics make it hard to fully appreciate the story. But I do love the rawness she and Brown brought fourth here.

Another standout, and possibly the best song on the whole album, is “I Wish It Would Rain.” Written by Griffith, it details the story of a woman searching for love from Georgia to her gulf coast hometown. I love everything about this track from the effecting vocal to the tasteful dobro and guitar heavy production. It’s hard to see why this wasn’t a single, as it could’ve easily been the biggest hit on the whole project.

“So Long Ago,” the story of a daughter going off to school and her father off to war, is the best ballad on Little Love Affairs. Written solely by Griffith, it stands out due to the modern production and her perfectly executed vocal.

I also adore “Sweet Dreams Will Come,” the rocking bluegrass duet with John Stewart. It closes the album with a nice dose of energy and the dobro filled production is just delightful.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls short. The title track is the biggest mess, with bizarre production values and a weak vocal from Griffith. “I Would Change My Life,” is strong lyrically, but Griffith’s grating vocal hinders my enjoyment of the song. And “Gulf Coast Highway,” a tribute to where Griffith grew up, is weirdly pop leaning, while the guest vocal from Mac McAnally, doesn’t add much to the overall song.

Little Love Affairs, in execution, is a mixed bag. Griffith and Brown did a poor job of crafting an album primed for mainstream success. The low-charting singles are hardly a surprise, as there is little here country radio would put into heavy rotation. As Razor X touched on last week, Griffiths’ vocal ability was too unique (or acquired taste) to stand next to the likes of Reba McEntire and Patty Loveless at the time.

Grade: B 

4 responses to “Album Review – Nanci Griffith – ‘Little Love Affairs’

  1. Razor X March 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

    The title track is not very country and would not have been a good choice for a single, but it’s far from a mess. I’ve always thought it was a very pretty song. I like it a lot. “Gulf Coast Highway” is a real gem, though I prefer the version that Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson did a couple of years later. On this version, I don’t really like the way that Mac McAnally sings it, but it’s still a great song. “Outbound Plane” is a also a great song; the tempo is so fast, I don’t know how she manages to sing it. But like you, I prefer the Suzy Bogguss version.

    • John McAuley November 9, 2017 at 2:24 am

      I agree.
      In Gulf coast highway ‘This is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow’ is a beautiful Wordsworthian lyric.
      Into the bargain, it’s melodic structure builds drama, and the tonicised third note on the 3 chord at the short keyboard passage emphasises the defamialiarisation between the two narrators, then neatly moves us into the third verse and their harmonious reunion.
      Top tune.

  2. Occasional Hope March 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I really love ‘Never Mind’ (which is a Harlan Horward song), and I like I Wish It Would Rain and Gulf Coast Highway a lot too. Nanci’s voice is definitely an acquired taste which isn’t for everyone, though.

  3. Michelle March 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Yes I agree Nanci’s voice is not for everyone. I like Never mind as a song I just did not like her voice. I would rather Patty or Reba any day.

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