I had never been to the relatively new (December, 2008) Grammy Museum in Downtown L.A. until Monday night. I went to see Nanci Griffith speak about the making of her new album, The Loving Kind. The occasion was the official release of the album (you can -- and should -- buy it at the link above; I explained why a few weeks ago) and the launching of a new program at the museum called "The Drop," which will highlight new album releases with this same kind of q&a format. Nanci and her two co-producers, Pat McInerney and Thomm Jutz, were interviewed and then played some new songs. Amazing event in a small theater (200 people) with plenty of time for questions from the audience, almost entirely made up of longtime Nanci Griffith fans.
The Museum's "Drop" program picked Nanci as their first artist because they are also running a compelling and unique exhibition, "Songs Of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom," which explores the whole 200-year history of music and politics in America. The exhibition was the brain child of the Grammy Museum, bringing together more than 100 diverse artifacts, from both government archives and private collections, as well as from myriad musical artists who have participated in social movements during the last century. They use rare film footage and photos to explore the depth to which music has been, and still is, a political force in American society.
The exhibition is going to start traveling around the U.S. early next year. It includes guitars owned by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Josh White and Odetta, one of Pete Seeger's banjos, handwritten lyrics from Patti Smith, Tom Morello, Tim McGraw and others and, my favorite, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI summary of the MC5.
Here's a clip of the title track from Nanci's new album, one of the songs she played, acoustically, at the Museum. The acoustic version was absolutely thrilling and moved the audience to stand and cheer for five minutes. Listen to the lyrics and you'll see why: