Ethereal and crystalline: These are the adjectives used to describe the voice of Washington D.C.-based Celtic folk singer Grace Griffith in Richard Harrington’s liner notes to her new album Passing Through, due for a July 8 release. It would be difficult to come up with more accurate descriptors—although perhaps angelic would do. Griffith has a voice that reaches hearts with an almost mystical touch.
That she has long been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease that ultimately led her to enter an assisted living community last February makes her accomplishment on Passing Through nothing short of remarkable. Listeners unaware of her health issues would be hard put to find any evidence of them on the album. She is an artist committed to her art, and that commitment comes through loud and clear on this gorgeous album of folk ballads.
The album includes 13 tracks, beginning with Susan Graham White’s haunting “Brigid’s Shield” and concluding with Betsy Rose’s poignant “Water, Fire and Smoke.” She does an a cappella version of “The Woodthrush’s Song” and a short, unaccompanied arrangement of Jennifer Cutting’s “The Leaves of Autumn” that was written, it seems, especially for this project.
There are elegant arrangements of poet William Butler Yeats’ “Down By the Sally Gardens” where Griffith is joined by Sue Richards on the Celtic harp, and the emotionally dark Scottish ballad “Bridget O’Malley,” with guitar, violin and cello accompaniment. “I Wish My Love Was a Red Rose” is another traditional piece where her vocal is punctuated by Marcy Marxer’s work on the whistle and bouzouki, and Al Petteway on guitar.
For the spectral pop classic “Nature Boy” made famous by Nat “King” Cole, she works in a duet with Richard Miller on guitar. She rings out with the optimistic “Loud Are the Bells of Norwich” and “Bright May Morning,” both of which also take the tempo up a bit.
Passing Through is a thoroughly engaging album filled with lovely traditional music sung with emotional honesty and touching elegance.
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