Over the course of 16 years and 11 albums, Nanci Griffith has earned a rabid cult following and a sterling reputation for writing vividly descriptive, literary-minded hits for elite country artists like Suzy Bogguss (”Outbound Plane”), Kathy Mattea (”Love at the Five and Dime”), and Emmylou Harris (”It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go”). But Griffith (who started recording in 1978 for small independent folk record companies) has yet to earn a gold album of her own, probably because her eclectic, lyrics-conscious style has made her hard to pigeonhole.
”I was called either a country artist or a folk artist, and I didn’t really fit with either one,” says the Texas-born Griffith, 39, who splits her time between Nashville and Dublin. ”I guess I got placed in (country) because of where I live.”
On the other hand, Griffith has built up a killer Rolodex over the years, as seen and heard on her latest album, Flyer. Two tracks were produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (who, as he showed on his band’s 1991 hit ”Losing My ) Religion,” knows a thing or two about acoustic instruments), and the record also boasts such guests as Indigo Girls, U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, and Adam Duritz, lead singer of the very hot Counting Crows. ”I’m very happy to not be a specific thing, because if anybody was a pioneer of alternative music that’s my middle name!” Griffith jokes.
Yet, for all her career travails, she admits, ”I have people tell me they wish they had the career I have. I can spend 365 days a year out on the road playing for 5,000 people a night. And yet I’ve never had a radio hit of my own, I’ve never been categorized, and I’ve never had to compromise.”