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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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July 2018
1
American Aquarium
93 pts.
Things Change
New West
BK,TJ,JB
2
Gretchen Peters
56 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
ML,GF
3
Patrick Sweany
51 pts.
Ancient Noise
Nine Mile Records
FC,RK,BM,CVL,TK
4
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
47 pts.
Downey To Lubbock
Yep Roc
SP,JBO,JJC
5
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
34 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
Independent
 
6
Ry Cooder
33 pts.
The Prodigal Son
Perro Verde Records
DH
7
Jenny van West
32 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
RST,NC
8
Brooks Williams
30 pts.
Lucky Star
Red Guitar Blue Music
 
9
Levi Parham
29 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
 
10
I See Hawks in LA
26 pts.
Live and Never Learn
Western Seed Records
WR
11
Rory Block
25 pts.
A Woman's Soul
Stoneyplain Records
MB,AL
12
Phil Cook
24 pts.
People Are My Drug
Thirty Tigers
LK,JD
13
Mike Aiken
23 pts.
Wayward Troubadour
Northwind Records
BP
14
Karen Jonas
22 pts.
Butter
Independent
HVB
15
Buckley
21 pts.
Las Cruzes
Rum Bar Records
 
 
John Prine
21 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
 
17
Neko Case
20 pts.
Hell-on
Anti Epitha
MW
 
Sam Lewis
20 pts.
Loversity
Loversity Records
HDB
 
Verbraak Van Bijnen
20 pts.
Endless Road
CRS
HH,TV
20
Jesse Dayton
19 pts.
The Outsider
Blue Elan
LM,SZ
21
Dieter van der Westen Band
18 pts.
Me and You
Independent
 
 
Hadley McCall Thackston
18 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
CRS
 
Willie Nelson
18 pts.
Last Man Standing
Legacy
 
24
Carter Sampson
17 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
 
Tami Neilson
17 pts.
SassaFrass!
Outside Music

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