At a forty year remove, it's easy to forget that it was Baez who helped make Dylan, and not the other way around. When Bob Dylan came to New York as a Woody Guthrie wannabe, Joan Baez was the undisputed Queen of the folk revival of the sixties. Folk purists loved her, her image of unspoiled innocence, the fact she sang with only her own guitar as accompaniment, and her choice of songs. It was her championing of Dylan and her singing of With God on our Side that helped put him on the map. Through the Sixties, Dylan went electric and stratospheric, while Baez was increasingly marginalised. Her increasing politicisation didn't do anything for a middle-American audience, and certain parties in the folk music scene for whom authenticity was all sniffed that her voice was too good to be "real." They held her extraordinary singing talent against her, for reasons we can only guess at. As such, it's so refreshing to come across a CD like David's Album and rediscover why Joan Baez is the greatest female popular singer of the last fifty years. David's Album is country, rather than folk music, but a singer as magnificently talented at interpreting material as Baez is makes it sound like she was singing country all her life. Here she sings modern country like the Green Grass of Home and Hickory Wind, and country standards and spirituals like Just a Closer Walk with Thee. Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris are rightly regard as giants of country music and have both recorded fine versions of the song, but to hear Baez sing Wayfaring Stranger is to be in the presence of singing talent of the highest order. And for trivia fans, the David of the title is David Harris, Joan Baez's then husband.
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