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JOAN BAEZ — WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (Proper Records)

www.properrecords.co.uk

 

As Joan Baez’s embarks on her final year of formal extended touring the singer, songwriter, activist, Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame inductee releases her latest album. Recorded over ten days in Los Angeles, Whistle Down The Wind once again sees her go for songs from some of her favourite songwriters of the Americana scene. 

Ones of great merit I hasten to add. Tom Waits - Kathleen Brennan and Josh Ritter have two songs apiece included to go with one a piece from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eliza Gilkyson, Joe Henry, Zoe Mulford, Tim Eriksen and Anohni. Much diligence has been taken in choosing the wonderful complement of songs, of this there is no doubt. 

Baez, though now very much in her twilight years her voice on record still possesses much grace and warmth. You could not find no greater demonstration of which than on the opening track, track cut “Whistle Down The Wind” (Waits, Brennan) as much beauty transpires. With lesser people, the brilliance of which could well prove to be a rod in their own back! Not so is the case with Baez as she eases, effortlessly, through the pretty played “Be Of Good Heart” (Ritter). While on displaying pleading tones, Anohni’s “Another World” prods and probes from beginning to end. On slowing the tempo and casting a melancholy feel Henry’s “Civil War” speaks of lost dreams and riding out ‘this civil war’ as bygone days are tenderly spoken of (decked out in piano, Dobro and a gentle percussive rhythm she is found in top form). 

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Things We Are Made Of” finds Baez’s in wistful mood, as the song edges majestically, through aspects of love, and though not outwardly dynamic, Baez’s cadence ensures it doesn't come up short in the passion stakes. Of which there is none lacking on the poignant “The President Sang Amazing Grace”(Mulford) as the brutal killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina are remembered, and the sadness and futility of it all underlined. Another from Waits and Brennan follows in the form of the amazingly shrewd “Last Leaf” as Baez revels in performing these songs steeped in quality, plus you have splendid instrumental support and the genial Joe Henry handle the production throughout this album that has to be her best in years! It has allowed Baez showcase the grace and beauty of a voice thought to have faded.       

With electric lead guitar and piano weaving a wonderful base she does a moving version of Gilkyson’s (great to see what is just one of many gems in her locker gain a bigger audience) terrific “The Great Correction”. Although the original version takes some beating. Tim Eriksen’s “I Wish The Wars Were All Over” ends the album and is one I greatly applaud, it has Baez return to a style of old as it speaks the same language as the legendary folk act (Baez stance against violence goes back to America’s Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War) and, the album close on an unprecedented high. 

Maurice Hope  

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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