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Album Review

March 28, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

NANCI GRIFFITH

"Other Voices, Other Rooms"

Elektra

* * *

For her 10th album--her first for a new label--Griffith takes a look back, saluting the sung and unsung folk musicians who have most influenced her.

But it's not merely a tribute album. An exceptionally observant writer herself, Griffith has assembled songs by 17 writers, from biggies (Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan) to lesser-knowns (Buddy Mondlock, Frank Christian), that form an exploration of the troubadour's often lonely lot.

Despite the large number of songwriters--many of whom provide musical support--the album is remarkably cohesive. That's because the songs are largely about people who are always searching: for something better, for something different, sometimes for nothing they can put a finger on. Griffith's delicate, yearning vocals are ideally suited to that search.

If occasionally she can't top an artist's own version of a tune (such as John Prine's emotionally devastating "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness"), it speaks more to the exceptional quality of the original than to anything lacking in Griffith's intentions or execution.

The closing rendition of the South African traditional "Wimoweh," a nod to the Weavers' '50s version, provides a transcendent finale in which music moves beyond words into an expression of pure vocal joy.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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