Little Love Affairs

by: Nanci Griffith

Little Love Affairs, Nanci Griffith's second MCA Records album, and sixth album overall, was the crucial release in her attempt to achieve success as a Nashville-based country artist, and in that context it was a failure. But it was also an artistic success, containing 11 well-written and well-performed songs in the reflective style that the singer/songwriter had established previously. Griffith's first MCA album, Lone Star State of Mind, had been a moderate seller, reaching the Top 40 and spawning two country chart singles. MCA prefaced Little Love Affairs with perhaps its most overtly country song, "Never Mind," written by veteran songwriter Harlan Howard, and prominently featuring a pedal-steel guitar in its arrangement, but the single's failure to crack the country Top 40 suggested trouble, confirmed when the album peaked lower than Lone Star State of Mind. "Never Mind" gave a good indication of the album's theme, embodied in its title, of carefully examining the romantic lives of common people. Howard's lovers were itinerant laborers who came out of the Depression, and other songs also looked back at stories of romance past, such as Griffith's compositions "Love Wore a Halo (Back Before the War)," and "So Long Ago." The music, supplied by Griffith's backup band and New Grass Revival, was in her familiar country-folk style, and her vocals, with their ringing, aching tone, conveyed the songs' sense of longing and regret effectively. Country critics and radio programmers complained that, if anything, she was too country, her voice having an off-putting twang and nasality, but that was just an excuse for rejecting her literate lyrics and sophistication. At 33, she wasn't about to become some empty-headed Nashville bimbo willing to mouth romantic clichés, and for that she paid the price of being denied country stardom. Her fans breathed a sigh of relief. ~ William Ruhlmann

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