My Life by Grace Griffith
CD Released 2006 by Blix Street Records
SINGER GRACE GRIFFITH TRAVELS NEW ROADS WITH "MY LIFE"
2006 promises to be a year like no other for Grace Griffith. A hauntingly true and evocative voice, an ear for material that encompasses the best of contemporary folk, traditional, pop and Celtic material and an ability to seize the essence of a song and soar have earned Griffith critical acclaim and an audience that extends far beyond her home base of Washington D.C.
MY LIFE, her new album, is set for release on March 14 from Blix Street Records. For this, her fourth release on the independent label, Griffith has reassembled long-time associates Marcy Marxer, Chris Biondo and Lenny Williams, the production team behind her previous album, SANDS OF TIME, and called on the talents of a long list of outstanding musicians. She’s also taken a brilliantly eclectic mix of material— poems, traditional material and songs from the contemporary pens of artists including Iris Dement, Sting and Jane Siberry—and woven them all into a brilliant, poignant and inspiring story: The elements are classic Grace Griffith, but there’s something new in the mix.
“MY LIFE feels different than any of my other albums,” explains Griffith. “It was recorded during a time of profound change in how I define myself. A lot of that change has its origins in my experience with Parkinson’s Disease. This album is not about sweating the small stuff. It’s about embracing the big stuff—like comforting someone or making them smile, savoring the light of a candle on a winter’s night or the sunlight in the whispering summer leaves on a walk in the woods. This album is about connection and how essential connection is to our survival and growth as human beings.
“I think I’ve gone a bit further into the dark side of living than on my other albums, but I’m hoping this eyes-wide-open look at struggle makes the beacon—the light of love in a friend’s eyes or the spark to dance in the face of an avalanche—shine more brightly.”
The title track, written by Iris Dement, sets the tone for the album’s central theme of the all-healing power of love, hope and inspiration in the ebb and flow of life. Griffith originally recorded the song on her album MINSTREL SONG in 2000. Roger Smith Craig heard it, and, convinced that strings would bring new dimensions to the song, prodded her to revisit the song and contributed the string arrangement.
Griffith’s impeccable ear for material is also evident in her choice of Tish Hinojosa’s “Love Is On Our Side” and Jane Siberry’s “Calling All Angels,” a song brought to Griffith’s attention by photographer Irene Young. “Angels are people who are here with us, and we all need them,” says Griffith. “It took me a while to sing this song because it touches so close to my heart.” “Shape of My Heart,” written by Sting and Dominic James Miller, and “Hills of Shiloh,” by James Friedman and Shel Silverstein, cast a wary eye on the craziness of war and just how crazy war can make us. Also among the album’s 12 tracks are the traditional “Cuckoo,” Mark A. Simos’ “Garden of Mysteries” and Susan Graham White’s “Crossing Over,” which, Griffith points out “is a song about transformation, not death.” Griffith has included two poems that share family ties in her life: “Bendemere’s Stream” and “Passing Thoughts.” The former, written by Thomas Moore and set to a traditional air, is a song Griffith remembers her parents singing around the house. The latter was written by her older brother Fred Sisson and set to music by Carey Creed. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease six years before Griffith, Sisson left his government job to devote himself to photography and poetry. According to Griffith, it’s not unusual for people with Parkinson’s to spout creative wings and celebrate life in--and with--new directions.
Celebrating life is, in fact, the theme of the irresistibly upbeat “If I Can’t Dance.” Written by Jennifer Berezan, Griffith’s version overflows with joyfully infectious vocals and a veritable United Nations of instruments, among them bodhrán, zabumba, bouzouki and mandolin. It’s the song she has chosen to perform at the 2006 Parkinson’s World Congress in February.
If MY LIFE is a provocative and compelling work, it’s also the work of an artist who has searched deep inside herself and learned to reach outside and richly benefited from both. “There is no one I know of on the planet that sings with the emotional credibility that Grace conveys on these songs,” says Chris Biondo, whose credits as a producer include Eva Cassidy.
Grace Griffith has received more than a dozen Washington Area Music Association Awards (WAMMIEs) in the categories of Celtic, New Age and Traditional Folk. In addition to her four solo albums on Blix Street Records, she has recorded two albums with the Celtic group Connemara and was responsible for bringing Eva Cassidy to the attention of Blix Street RecordS. Trained as a physical therapist, she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease in 1998. Her experience with Parkinson’s has led her to become increasingly involved in educating people about the disease while continuing her career as a performer. Prior to undergoing a surgical procedure intended to reverse some of the disease’s disabling symptoms, Griffith will celebrate the release of MY LIFE with two special concerts on March 5 at Christ Church Hall in Chaptico, Maryland and March 6 at The Institute of Musical Tradition in Rockville, Maryland, followed by a March 16 appearance with Dominick Murray at Baldwin’s Station and Listening Room in Sykesville, Maryland.
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