Joan Baez manages to sound as fresh as the newer artists' material she covers.
Daryl Easlea 2009-05-19
Although many know Joan Baez for her significant role in the history of folk and American political activism, far fewer have actually spent time with her music, aside from her obvious 60s high-watermarks.
Recorded in Nashville in early 1997, Gone From Danger is one of the best places to acquaint yourself. It is her best studio album from the 90s and finds her, some 40 years into her career, still sounding vibrant and vital.
At the time, she had wearied of writing her own material, and retreated to her famous, early role as an interpreter, choosing songs here by recent talents such as Dar Williams and Sinead Lohan.
Working again with producers Kenny Greenberg and Wally Wilson with whom she'd first worked on 1992's Play Me Backwards, Baez stamps her considerable authority on the material. Her sole co-write on the album, Lily, is an upbeat tale of the hopes and dreams of an old school friend over the passage of time.
It is, however, Betty Elders' traumatic Crack In The Mirror that is the album's standout. The subject matter (of child abuse) makes for a harrowing listen, with the purity of Baez's voice intensifying the pathos.
Gone From Danger is now expanded with an extra CD comprising of her 1997 Mountain Stage concert from Charleston, West Virginia. The album's material, which at times borders on radio-friendly AOR, is shorn of its production values and laid bare.
If I Wrote You, which opens the set, is just Baez and her acoustic, demonstrating what a fantastic song Dar Williams had written. There is also an affecting duet here of Bob Dylan's To Ramona sung as a duet with Sinead Lohan.
On Gone From Danger, and especially on its accompanying live disc, Joan Baez manages to sound as fresh as the newer artists' material she covers. Try this and then listen to 2008’s Steve Earle-produced Day After Tomorrow to hear how a legend should mature gracefully.