Grace Griffith

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Grace Griffith
Occupations Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1988–present
Labels Blix Street Records
Associated acts Eva Cassidy
Website

Seamaid.org

Grace Griffith discography at MusicBrainz

Grace Griffith is a folk and celtic singer based in Washington, DC. She has been honored with multiple Wammie awards by the Washington Area Music Association.[1] In 1998, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.[2]

Biography[edit]

Grace Griffith was raised in a family of ten children on a small farm in Southern Maryland. At a young age she began singing and accompanying herself on guitar playing in small coffeehouse stages, mentored by her sister Maura. Grace’s parents encouraged her to follow a practical career. Putting her musical hobby to one side she graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978 with a degree in physical therapy and embarked on a career as a physical therapist. Several years after her college studies she was invited to sing for a local Irish band in Washington DC called “The Hags” and toured the college circuit for two years. Her successor in that band was to become the famed singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. In 1987 Griffith formed a duo called “Hazlewood” with songwriter Susan Graham White. They produced some independent releases and ultimately appeared at the 1991 Philadelphia Folk Festival.[3]

Returning to her celtic roots Grace formed an East Coast Celtic group called Connemara which she formed with fiddler/arranger Cathy Palmer along with harpist Tracie Brown. They were also joined on the albums by guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Zan McLeod. They released 2 albums, firstly Beyond Horizon in 1993 and Siren Song in 1995. Other musicians to participate on the projects were harpists Sue Richards, Julia Lane, Carol Thompson and Mary Fitzgerald along with box player Billy McComiskey and Jody Marshall on hammered dulcimer.[4] In 1993 as a solo artist Griffith released her debut album Every Hue and Shade which came out on her own independent label.[5]

When Blix Street Records based in California were looking for an artist to succeed Ireland's Mary Black as their main project in the U.S., they signed Griffith on a long term recording contract. They revamped her album Every Hue and Shade which became her label debut called Grace. In 1996 Blix Street also licensed the two Connemara recordings for distribution.[3] Grace completed 2 further albums with Minstrel Song, released in 2000, and followed by Sands of Time in 2003. Her album My Life in 2006 drew critical acclaim extending beyond her home base of Washington D.C.

Griffith has been called a singer's singer. One of her keen fans of her singing was the late Eva Cassidy. When Griffith came to know Eva's work, she encouraged Blix Street to sign her as well, which they did just after the release of her album Grace.[3]

Eva Cassidy was first and foremost a music lover sitting in the front row watching her musical heroes perform in Washington. She was also an avid fan of Grace Griffith who spotted Eva’s face at several of her concerts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Griffith got to hear about Cassidy’s talents and in 1996 made a drive to Potomac to see the then mystery girl at a small club in Alexandria, VA. By this time the Washington Area Association had awarded Grace more than a dozen “Wammies” including “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Album”. In September 1996 hearing of Eva Cassidy’s illness she went to visit her. Grace made a telephone call to Bill Straw the President of Blix Street Records explaining the situation and two days later Grace sent a tape of Eva’s Live At Blues Alley album to him. On that tape was a recording of "Fields of Gold"; the song became Cassidy’s big hit in what has become a phenomenal posthumous career. "All the colors of the rainbow, all life's palette of beauty and sadness and sweet passion and eternity — it was all there in that voice that came from that heart and those hands" said Griffith in interview when talking about Eva.[6]

At the memorial service for Eva at Greenbelt Park, Griffith performed a haunting Celtic-tinged version of "Golden Thread".

During the next seven years the Eva Cassidy story unfolded whilst Grace Griffith continued to toil in relative obscurity. In one of life’s ironies in 1998 Griffith was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological condition Parkinson's disease.[7] It affected her life profoundly but although her voice was affected she could still sing but she had to give up playing whistle, guitar, and dulcimer and relied on musical friends to support her.[3] At the World Parkinson’s Congress in February 2006 she performed If I Can’t Dance from her album My Life dedicating it to other fellow Parkinson's Disease sufferers.[8]

In 2006 Grace underwent pioneering surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital for the implantation of electrodes for Deep Brain Stimulation. She benefited from the then experimental procedure and has since become an effective speaker and educator on Parkinson’s. Over a period of time as the batteries ran down, her voice diminished. In March 2010, doctors who were not able to assure her of a positive result, changed and upgrading the batteries and it proved successful. Griffith had more energy and more voice. Grace Griffith sang at the opening of the second World Parkinson Congress (September 28-October 1, 2010) held in Glasgow, Scotland. Accompanied by Mark Cowan on guitar she performed a traditional tune “The Seasons” (Scots Pastoral song) along with “Sailing” which was a hit for Rod Stewart. Grace also spoke at a Music & Parkinson’s Disease Workshop on the last day of the event.[9][10]

On September 28, 2010 Blix Street Records released the compilation album Sailing with the intentions that it would elevate this relatively unknown artist to her rightful place among her peers.[11]

For the week commencing September 3, 2011 Grace’s song My Life was added to the BBC Radio 2 B Playlist.[12]

Musical career[edit]

Grace[edit]

Grace Griffith’s debut album with Blix Street Records released on August 6, 1996. It was a re-package of her 13 track independent record called Every Hue and Shade. On this 10 track recording it includes a take of the show tune “Summertime” from the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess and a cover of "Turning Away" written by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean which appeared on his album Indigenous in 1999. It also contains a musical version of the W.B.Yeats poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"

Minstrel Song[edit]

In April 24, 2000 Griffith released this 10 track recording on the Blix Street Record label. It was produced by Grammy Award nominee Marcy Marxer. On this album which was a mixture of traditional and contemporary material Griffith interprets songs with arrangements ranging from sparse guitar and cello accompaniment to lush productions. She covers songs by Iris Dement ("My Life"), Jane Siberry ("Bound By The Beauty"), John Martyn ("May You Never") and Richard Farina ("Swallow Song").

Sands Of Time[edit]

Her third album with Blix Street Records Grace Griffith collaborates with former Eva Cassidy producer/band members, Chris Biondo and Lenny Williams along with Grace’s long-time friend producer/instrumentalist Marcy Marxer. It is essential a collection of ballads which includes a cover of “Moment of Forever” written by Kris Kristofferson. The album was dedicated to Eva Cassidy.

My Life[edit]

On March 14, 2006 Griffith released My Life her fourth studio release for Blix Street Records and was again produced by Chris Biondo, Marcy Marxer and Lenny Williams. It consisted of twelve tracks which are all cover interpretations. The title track My Life was written by Iris Dement and appeared on her 1994 album My Life.

Sailing[edit]

On September 28, 2010 Blix Street Records released Sailing which is an 11 track compilation package. The opening track "Wondering Where the Lions Are” was written by Bruce Cockburn and first appeared in 1979. The tenth track “Sailing/Ships Are Sailing” is a combination of a cover of the 1975 number one hit Sailing for Rod Stewart and "Ships are Sailing" the popular traditional Irish Reel.

Quotes[edit]

  • "Fans of Southern Maryland-bred singer Grace Griffith consider each of her recordings a blessing, and understandably so. After all, it's not often that one encounters a voice as lovely or as affecting as hers“ - Mike Joyce (Washington Post Reviewer)[13]
  • “This is Grace Griffith, wait till you hear this song it’s absolutely beautiful. Tell me what you think of it I’ve only just head it, absolutely stunning". - Michael Ball (Singer, BBC Radio 2 and TV presenter).[14]

Discography[edit]

  • 1996: Grace
  • 2000: Minstrel Song
  • 2003: Sands of Time
  • 2006: My Life

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wammie Winners
  2. ^ Grace Griffith, in Fine Voice and Spirit as Disease Takes Its Toll Richard Harrington, Washington Post, March 5, 2006
  3. ^ a b c d Grace Griffith official site bio
  4. ^ Allmusic Guide biography
  5. ^ Allmusic Guide review
  6. ^ Griffith interview in January, 2003 with songwriter Steven Digman the article appeared in the Pickett News in Hagerstown, Maryland
  7. ^ Sands Of Time: Liner Notes, June 2003. 
  8. ^ My Life: Liner Notes, 2006. 
  9. ^ World Parkinson Congress 2010 summary
  10. ^ Flickr Photo
  11. ^ [Blix Street Records Press Release September 15, 2010: retrieved from http://www.blixstreet.com/press_releases/sailing.html on 3 September 2011]
  12. ^ [BBC Radio 2 Playlist: retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/music-events/playlist/ on 3 September 2011]
  13. ^ Mike Joyce Washington Post review: retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030200891.html on 2010-09-03
  14. ^ Michael Ball Sunday Brunch BBC Radio 2: August 28, 2011: retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013wplf on 2010-09-03

External links[edit]