Lately I have been on a female vocalist kick, from Heart to Florence + the Machines, and even Tina Turner. So, I am pleased that a female artist has cropped up on my list this early. Joan Baez, a classic female artist, is sadly only known to me by name. However, today I listened to her first full length album, self titled. Joan Baez (1960) is a fantastic thing to hear. Her excellent guitar strumming is noticeable yet takes a backseat to her fantastic and melodic voice. The songs are great, but it is Joan’s voice that makes this whole album worth listening to, more than once. For me, the stand out tracks are “House of the Rising Sun” (never heard another version but the Animals), “All My Trials,” and “Donna Donna.” With that said, I kept having to rethink what I would consider the stand out tracks. With every new song that played I kept thinking to myself, “This is better. Now this is better. Nope, it’s this one.” So, please understand that my stance on which songs are better is as fickle as southern summer weather (I just thought to myself as I write this and listen again, “John Riley” maybe the best, sigh, such fluctuation).
Now what drew me to this album once I started listening to it is its folk style. If you look up Joan Baez it will clearly say “folk,” and it does not disappoint in that aspect. The same reason why I was drawn to listening to the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou (Coen Brothers 2000) has hooked me again for Baez. It slow, yet it does not drag. It is lulling yet not dull. Songs like “House of the Rising Sun” allow Baez to sing with a little more gusto, while “Henry Martin” is mostly even and reminds me of a traditional style song. A type of song I would hear in a film about old America or Great Britain. Even though I did say that her guitar playing is mostly overshadowed by her wonderful singing, it is still noticeable. This album is stripped down to just her and a guitar, so you cannot help but notice it. In “Henry Martin” and the ultimate song, “El Preso Numero Nueve,” her impressive playing is obvious but not emphasized, yet in each song, I could not help but want to lean in and try to pick out her guitar playing more. For a debut album, this is quite impressive. It further rekindled my love for female vocalists and introduced me to a new one; one I should have listened to along time ago.
Next Week: Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory