Having announced in May that she’s virtually retiring next year, Nanci Griffith is seemingly pouring everything into — evidently — her last major tour. The performance was a largely intimate affair, well in line with Griffith’s roots in the folk music movement. She joked with members of the band, told stories behind many of the songs, and generally treated the Wiltern as a slightly oversized living room.
The songs included several originals (though, maybe surprisingly, not her lively “Outbound Plane,” which had been a country hit for Suzy Boguss in 1992), including several from her most recent Elektra album, “Blue Roses from the Moons.” Highlights included her duet with bandleader-keyboardist James Hooker of the vintage “Gulf Coast Highway,” and the more recent ballad “Not My Way Home.” …..Peppered throughout the set were songs by worthy, though largely obscure singer-songwriters, including Kate Wolf, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Suzy Elkins, and the Nick Lowe/Paul Carrack composition, “Battlefield.”
Billing as “The Original Crickets” depends on one’s interpretation of history: Bassist Joe B. Mauldin and drummer J.I. Allison played on most of Buddy Holly’s recordings and toured with the singer; and Sonny Curtis often recorded with Holly, but (as he explains in his song “The Real Buddy Holly Story”) chose to tour with Slim Whitman rather than the Crickets……Curtis and longtime friend, keyboardist Glen D. Hardin, recorded and toured in a post-Holly Crickets group (whence came Curtis’ composition “I Fought the Law,” “More Than I Can Say” and others); and expatriate Brit guitarist Albert Lee, guesting for this show, played with the band for two years in the ’70s and recorded an album with them.
Starting off with Curtis’ version of his “Love is All Around” (the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme), the band played with Griffith and her group, and by themselves for about 30 minutes. The repertoire included too many Buddy Holly songs, and a pointless version of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” Still, the group did a terrific job, by themselves and with Griffith’s fine band, and earned a couple of standing ovations.