This album is distinctive in many ways. First, it was a brilliant coupling of cover material and original songs. Baez's original songs ("Honest Lullaby," "For Sasha," and "Michael," an ode to her boyfriend and early career) stand out amongst cover material by Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, and the Bellamy Brothers. Second, it was recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio and produced by Barry Beckett. Need I say anything about the quality of the musicianiship? Third, the mix on the vocals highlight Joan's lower register, which is beautiful and earthy and bears little resemblance to the ethereal sounds of Joan's early recordings.
The U.S. CD release included the single-release edited version of the title song, a mistake that always boggled my mind. I don't know if the import version includes the entire song, but, if not, the original album version is included in Baez's box set collection "Rare, Live and Classic." For "Honest Lullaby," Joan used the theme from the 50s hit "Little Darlin," and I remember seeing her in concert once where she interspersed lyrics from that song in the bridge.
I think the two performance highlights on "Honest Lullaby" are the program's final two songs: "For All We Know" and "Free At Last." I remember reading somewhere (her autobiography, maybe?) that Joan learned "For All We Know" from a Nina Simone album. Joan contributes a bravura vocal performance with piano accompaniment. "Free At Last," co-written by Joan, is a gospel-flavored number written about Martin Luther King, Jr., her buddy in the civil rights movement. The song will have you singing along and playing it again and again.
An amazing recording from an amazing artist. And the cover photography by Josef Karsh perfectly encapsulates the beautiful music.
P.S.: While recording this album at Muscle Shoals, Joan contributed vocals to the Amazing Rhythm Aces track "Homestead In My Heart" (from the 1979 "Amazing Rhythm Aces" album).