Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. II

Rachael Maddux

By Rachael Maddux

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Joan Baez, Vol. II

Joan Baez
Soaring, glistening, teetering somewhere between desperation and defiance

When Joan Baez made her first album in 1960, she essentially put to tape the entirety of the set she'd spent several years playing in and around Boston, on street corners and folk clubs. So perhaps that's why the tracks she assembled for her second LP, released a year later, sound less polished, more lively. With just her voice and her guitar, Baez still draws from the traditional folk canon ("The Trees They Do Grow High," "Once I Knew a Pretty Girl," "Barbara Allen") and preternatural weariness still haunts her strong, vibrant soprano, but the young singer also had one popular record under her belt and a growing audience — good enough reasons to loosen the reigns a little on the new-old songs. The train-wreck ballad "Engine 143" gets a low-slung, earthy delivery that carries into the full-on bluegrass twang of "Banks of the Ohio" and "Pal of Mine," featuring Baez's first-ever vocal accompaniments on record, from New York bluegrass act the Greenbriar Boys. But "The Longest Road I Ever Saw," appended to Vanguard's 2001 reissue, is a return to typical Baez form; her voice soaring, glistening, teetering somewhere between desperation and defiance.