Joan Baez, Joan Baez

Rachael Maddux

By Rachael Maddux

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Joan Baez

Joan Baez
Thwarted loves and tragic demises called up by her guileless, vibrato-ribbed soprano

These days, we tend to imagine a young Joan Baez in certain tableaus: her hair long, her face stoic and narrow, a guitar in her arms and a protest song on her lips, likely cheek-to-cheek with an equally-young Bob Dylan. But when she released her self-titled debut album in 1960, at age 19, her most influential fan was still slumming it as Robert Zimmerman and, musically, Baez seemed more captivated by the catacombs of traditional American and British folk music than the issues of the day. Basically a catalog of her live set at the time, she glides through high points of the Child Ballads and Alan Lomax's field findings: "Silver Dagger," "House of the Rising Sun," "Henry Martin." The blissfully resolute "All My Trials," an anthem of blurred spiritual provenance, does hint at her eventual hand in bonding folk revivalism with midcentury social activism, but mostly it's all thwarted loves and tragic demises called up once more through the ages by her guileless, vibrato-ribbed soprano, its staggering loneliness amplified by the singular accompaniment of her tangled, hypnotic finger-picking. The three bonus tracks tacked on to the 2001 re-release — especially her steely take on "I Know You Rider" — were worthy additions.