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Clock Without Hands
Nanci Griffith
Clock Without Hands
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1

Once Nanci Griffith moved away from "folkabilly" in favor of an uptown middle-of-the-road sound, her albums often took on a self-important archness that detoured their journey from her heart to ours. The fact that she t...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Nanci Griffith
Title: Clock Without Hands
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 1
Label: Elektra / Wea
Release Date: 7/31/2001
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop
Styles: Outlaw Country, Classic Country, Traditional Folk, Contemporary Folk, Singer-Songwriters
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 075596266024, 755962660242

Once Nanci Griffith moved away from "folkabilly" in favor of an uptown middle-of-the-road sound, her albums often took on a self-important archness that detoured their journey from her heart to ours. The fact that she titled this one after a Carson McCullers novel telegraphs bad omens until you remember that many of her best, early records also honored her literary heroes. Clock Without Hands, her first album of mostly original material since 1997, turns out to be an elegant and gratifying surprise. While the production is a bit too pristine and dry, and Griffith's sometimes irritating delivery goes over the top on "Shaking Out the Snow," the album is a thoughtful and effective meditation on the awakening and thawing of a heart grown cold. With two songs meant for a seriously ill parent and three set in Vietnam--one a deeply felt tribute to ex-husband Eric Taylor, whose life was forever changed there--Griffith seems to be making amends, healing old wounds, and finding the strength to move on. This is a beautifully wrought record about the mysteries of love, longing laid bare, and the importance of living in the moment. It may be the most honest album of Griffith's career; certainly it's one of her most enjoyable. --Alanna Nash

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CD Reviews

Toto, I don't think we're in Texas anymore...
Mary Bryan | Ohio | 08/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'll admit that Nanci's newest album, "Clock without Hands," took some careful listening before I warmed up to it. Gone is the twangy little Texan poet-girl we all know and love, who's songs about leaving love behind carried an unspoken "but I don't need it anyhow" underneath the surface of regret. On this record, we hear a woman pushing 50, who's taking a good, hard look at her life, and sharing what she sees with restraint, honesty, and no pretense of bravado.The title song captures that mood perfectly, and lays the groundwork for the rest of the album. Nanci's delivery here is subtle yet direct, and that gentle matter-of-factness steers the song away from self-pity and towards insightful confession. The counterpoint to "Clock Without Hands" is "Where Would I Be," which seems like a throw-away pop song the first time around. But listen again, and you'll hear a little gem about salvation and gratitude, maybe a bit more polished than we're used to, but with the same quiet, reflective delivery we hear on "Clock." Yes, it's a very "pop-y" song, but imagine it in the hands of Celine Dion, and you'll appreciate the sophisticated restraint of Nanci's delivery.As much as I like the sophisticated, mature Nanci, I was glad she let her roots show from time to time on this album. "Truly Something Fine" and "Cotton" are full of the folky sweetness that made me a Nanci fan to begin with. And "Roses on the 4th of July" is a classic "real folks" love story, a genre she's done so well in the past ("Gulf Coast Highway"), moving you to tears with nothing more than a tale about two people who love each other because of, and in spite of, everyday life. The album does falter in a few places. I've never liked Nanci's "political consciousness" songs, (with the exception of "Hard Life") and "Armstrong" seems to be feeling around for a message, but never quite comes up with one. Plus the high-pitched beeping sound in the background always makes me reach for my cell phone...and "Travelling Through This Part of You" seems almost like a rough draft---I know what she's trying to say, but she never gets around to saying it. "Shaking Out the Snow" is probably not going to win over any new fans, because it's Nanci at her weirdest and most affected, but there's a good song in there somewhere, if you can get past the "chain-smoking cat" delivery. The final cut on the album, "In the Wee Small Hours," is truly lovely, and sums up what she's trying to say and do on this record perfectly. It's a lullaby for a broken heart, and she sings it with sophistication and perfect phrasing, without a trace of folk-country in her voice (until you get to that last line, where she stretches the word "morning" out like a rubber band on a cereal box guitar, just to remind us that she's still Nanci Griffith.) Maybe if we ask her nicely, she'll do a whole album of old standards...but for now, "Clock Without Hands" will have to do, and it does, quite nicely."
Still a shining light
J. Cambre | USA | 08/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"A lot of commenters take note of the fact that this disc contains, to evident surprise, new material. A few years ago, NG announced a retirement of sorts after "Blue Roses", so to find a new release, with new originals, is newsworthy for her fans.As a collector of every NG album (that term is still used, I hope) I'd put this in the "Flyer" tradition of Nanci's work. Her voice no longer has that girlish, Texan quality we heard on her early works, nor does it have the silvery tone of her MCA albums. Now she sounds more sandy, and performs material that shows off her vocal strengths as they've evolved over time. I'm less conflicted over "Clock Without Hands" than I was with "Blue Roses". I find it much more consistent and strong. That said, it's still a little uneven. But with the exception of "Last of the True Believers" and "Flyer", I find all of her albums uneven, and find myself skipping over tracks on nearly all of them when I listen. Still, on "Clock Without Hands", just as on every other Nanci disc, there's at least one song which gives me chills. Here it's "Midnight In Missoula." NG is brilliant in performing these love-at-a-distance songs ("Lone Star State of Mind" is another example) and this tune just puts all the ingredients together perfectly. Actually, from an editing point of view, "Clock Without Hands" has a terrific flow to it, much like "Flyer" did. I'll be the first to admit I'm not as keen on her topical songs as others. I didn't really care for "Time of Inconvenience", or, reaching back, for "Hard Life". Her lyrical preachments have always seemed a little too strident, even if I agree with her sentiments. For that reason, I find "Pearl's Eye View" rather uninteresting, but in contrast, find "Traveling Through This Part of You" to be a wonderful song. For one thing, it's a heartbreaking melody -- it could stand on its own as a purely instrumental piece. And her lyrics and delivery are nuanced and perfectly pitched. Some have been nonplussed by "Armstrong", but I don't find it alienating, nor do I really categorize it as a song-in-service-of a cause. To me, it's a rumination on a signature event, viewed in respect to its cultural context. It's less didactic than it would appear on the surface.I have to agree with those who find "Shaking Out The Snow" offputting, however. This is one of the most inscrutable performances she's ever put to record. The lyrics overreach, the composition is weak, and the vocalizing is, to me, unlistenable. Sorry, fellow fans, but I just can't get behind this one.The other tune I'd like to mention is her likely single, "Where Would I Be". It sounds just like, as it is, a Paul Carrack tune, and is rather an odd duck among this set. But she puts it over, and I really don't have a problem with her doing a tune with mass appeal potential. As far as I'm concerned, the more people who hear her, the better. As another reviewer wrote in, her fans are going to snap this up no matter what. If this is your first NG experience on the other hand, it's a pretty decent introduction."
Not the time to buy
(2 out of 5 stars)

"If you're not already a rabid Nanci Griffith fan, skip this one - she has a dozen recordings that are lovely. If you are a long-time fan like me, take serious note of the Amazon reviewer's comment about one song. "Irritating" is an understatement - Nanci trying without success to belt out "Shaking Out the Snow" shockingly out of key is absolutely horrifying. The lyrics are great, but what has happened to the beautiful voice I've been listening to for 20 years?I like some Nanci albums better than others, and I've enjoyed seeing her perform live both in her youth and in her middle age. But I haven't been this disappointed (or disappointed at all) in any of her other CD's except Late Night Grande Hotel. Like that CD, there is only one good song here - the title track, in this case - and the rest is somewhere between mediocre and unlistenable. The song for her mother is nice. I don't mind when one of her recordings has a little filler, but there should be more than one or two really good songs.I've always bought whatever Nanci recorded. With the release of "Clock Without Hands," I plan to be much more careful in the future. I don't entirely regret buying it, because I'm unlikely to buy a greatest-hits package (already have all her albums), and the title track is one of her best songs ever. I'm glad to have it. But I tend to rush to get it out of the CD player when that one song is over.Nanci Griffith is one of my favorite singers when doing original material, and her two CD's covering great folk songs were both enjoyable and a great contribution to the world of folk music. I've tried really hard to like this CD, with repeated listenings, and I just can't manage it. You can't go wrong with most of the others - consider buying one of them first. This is simply a bad CD. I can't think of a nice way to say it. A valiant effort gone wrong?"