Picks and Pans Review: Late Night Grande Hotel

updated 12/23/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/23/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Nanci Griffith

If you're a Griffith fan, her ninth album may not sit well at first. She and her producers, Peter Van-Hooke and Rod Argent, have taken some of the twang out of the Nashville songwriter's folksy style and replaced it with ornamental studio glosses like airy synthesizers and sentimental strings.

There's a cloying sweetness to "Fields of Summer" and the sappy "Heaven." The layers of overproduction make these and other songs sound emotionally forced. Not too promising so far, right? But by the second half of the album, Griffith salvages most of her integrity with some heartfelt tunes written with true emotion. She shows more depth and strains less on "Hometown Streets," which also features honest lyrics like "Hometown streets are paved in gold/ With faces that you've always known/ But you'll never see them/ Until you pack your dreams and leave them." On "Down 'N' Outer," Griffith takes a poignant look at the indigent. She calmly asks people to remember those less fortunate who "live right here on this corner...Just a bank account away from America."

With the jazzy, barroom feel of Tom Waits's "San Diego Serenade," she exits gracefully, singing about never appreciating something until it's gone. That applies to many things in life, but not to all the synthesized window dressing this album would be better without. (MCA)

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