|Maura and Edwina in full flow|
The relationship between The Kennedys and Nanci goes back over 20 years, albeit on an irregular basis, although they are now in a period of being the cornerstone of her backing band. With Nanci taking a brief hiatus from touring and recording, Maura and Pete saw an opportunity to develop their own fan base in the UK by paying respects to an icon of Texas flavoured country/folk music. Edwina Hayes is more East Riding than East Texas but her pristine vocals have caught the ear of Nanci who decorated the Roses songbird as the ‘sweetest voice in England’. Edwina subsequently penned a beautiful ballad ‘Pour Me a Drink’ which Nanci cut on her 2009 album THE LOVING KIND. The version sung this evening was nestled amongst a collection of classics and did not sound a note out of place.
After opening the main set with two Griffiths’ classics ‘Lone Star State of Mind’ and ‘Gulf Coast Highway’, two became three in the harmony stakes as Edwina joined the duo, although Pete tended to come more to the fore with the cutting guitar interludes. Edwina and Maura regularly swapped lead vocals as the audience had an insight to working with Nanci and to the background of some of the songs. With such outstanding versions being delivered of old favourites like ‘From a Distance’, ‘Listen to the Radio’ and ‘Trouble in the Fields’, they were a timely reminder of what great songs Nanci and her fellow collaborators have produced in the past. The evening ended on a special note for Maura as her own co-write with Nanci, ‘Hell No (I’m Not Alright)’, invited a polite but enthusiastic bout of audience participation.
Along with Edwina leading the way with her writing contribution number, another major highlight was the tale Maura told of Nanci finally having the courage to sing ‘There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)’ on stage in New York following the death of her close friend featured in the song. Maura’s rendition was no less emotional but just eclipsed by the fabulous ‘Love at the Five and Dime’, a great Griffiths write almost taken to the top of the country charts by Kathy Mattea, as the night’s standout moment.
This was the final show of a twelve date tour, after which both Edwina Hayes and The Kennedys will go back to cultivating their own careers. However for just one night, a Birmingham audience was submerged in the next best thing to Nanci Griffiths returning to one of the city’s main venues.
Mauna on stage with Nanci singing 'Hell No (I'm Alright)'