Joan Baez is a bona-fide member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. While the title may not fit her musical style, the honor is appropriate. She was an essential part of the folk revival movement and like or hate her politics; she has influenced the society and culture of the United States through her voice and music for the last half century plus. She has now returned with her 25th studio album.
Whistle Down The Wind is a nostalgic, poignant, and yearning release. The edge to her music is a little more subtle than in the past. Her acoustic guitar playing seems to have acquired a nice patina with the passage of time.
I have always thought she does not compose original material enough. Here she presents 10 songs by other artists and she has chosen well as she brings her experiences to each and transforms them into her own creations.
The title song by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan finds her looking back at life. “Be Of Good Heart” is a sweet remembrance of a past relationship. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Things We Are Made Of” is a thoughtful and laid back tune of independence.
“I Wish The Wars Were All Over” returns her to one of the themes that have dominated her music and life. “The President Sang Amazing Grace” is a response to the shootings in South Carolina.
As with any Joan Baez album, there is always a focus on her voice which continues to have a purity virtually unmatched.
Whistle Down The Wind may not have the power of her earlier releases but it is an album of music that fits where she is in life, and her that is enough.