Joan Baez : Gone From Danger out soon on Diverse Records

The ability to serve as a lightning rod for artists whose talent complements – that is, completes, amplifies
– your own unique abilities, that is a rare quality, indeed. It is a quality that came to Joan Baez very early in her career, and there are indications that it even preceded her career (her professional career). As early as her coffee house days in 1958 and ’59, learning her craft from friends, fellow travellers, old and new recordings, Joan’s instincts sharpened.

She learned to draw from those sources who could heighten her artistry, and to introduce her audiences to music and musicians who appealed to her, and whom she felt assured would appeal to those audiences as well. Volumes have been written about how Joan championed a virtually unknown Bob Dylan in 1963 (the year that Joan famously had five albums simultaneously on the Billboard chart) and ’64. Her concert audiences encountered him onstage with her, and her records underscored the fevered rush of songs that were pouring out of him in those years.

Joan used her platform to expose other contemporaries: the songs of Phil Ochs, Richard Fariña, Leonard Cohen and Tim Hardin, informed her repertoire. As she made her way to Nashville later on in the ’60s, she opened up her songbook to the work of Johnny Cash, Mickey Newbury, and Kris Kristofferson. Through Joan, many folk music listeners had their first taste of South American composers Nascimento, Bonfa, and Villa-Lobos. In her first decade as a working singer and musician, Joan had opened the door for some of the most important composers of her generation. Decades later, by virtue of her seniority, Joan – like Duke Ellington, to extend the metaphor – had become the mentor to a new younger generation of singer-songwriters. They are the specially hyphenated breed of folk and country singers and songwriters in the U.S. and abroad for whom Joan is an icon. This is a mantle she wears uncomfortably yet accepts nonetheless, and has even come around to relish since the ’90s, a landmark decade for her

Gone From Danger is a reminder of the complex musical roads that Joan Baez has traveled these past two decades or so, and the marvelously talented artists that she has mentored along the way, who have travelled on her “bus” and then driven off to find their own pathways.

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