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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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April 2018

Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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