Joan Baez, Live At Newport, 1963-65

Holly George-Warren

By Holly George-Warren

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Live At Newport, 1963-65

Joan Baez

The Newport Folk Festival earned Joan Baez her crown as Queen of Folk after she debuted there in 1959. The hallowed gathering was also where she introduced her prince, "Bobby" Dylan, to a national audience in 1963. This set of live performances culled from three summers ('63-'65) documents Baez's soaring soprano, while presenting a portrait of who she was in her early 20s.

A portrait of the Queen of Folk in her early 20s

The songs here also illustrate Baez's changing repertoire, from traditional balladry ("Long Black Veil"), spirituals ("All My Trials"), and protest songs ("Oh, Freedom") to a few Dylan compositions. She sounds like a young woman in love as she embodies his "Farewell, Angelina," which he may have penned with her in mind, and she dedicates the Scots-Irish chestnut "Wild Mountain Thyme" to "everybody and anybody in love." For the union broadside "Lonesome Valley," Baez is accompanied by Mary Travers, who learns the lyrics as they go; West Virginia-born old-timers, the Lilly Brothers, collaborate on the mandolin-fueled country number "Satisfied Mind."

But it is Dylan whose presence hovers throughout: In 1963, she introduces "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," his farewell to former lover Suze Rotolo, as "a BD song, [where] the only thing he's protesting…is probably a love affair that lasted too long," and Baez and Dylan duet on a rather strident "With God on Our Side." The following year, "George Washington," as he's referred to by Baez, joins her onstage for a somewhat combative "It Ain't Me Babe" (which Johnny Cash and June Carter would soon re-create as a country hit). For her nuanced version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," in 1965, Baez utilizes the lower range of her three-octave instrument, particularly on a hushed "your lover who has just walked out your door/ has taken all your blankets from your floor." The listener senses Baez has gone from lovestruck to brokenhearted over the two-year span, which, in grand folk tradition, she would eventually recount in "Diamonds and Rust."