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Joan Baez

Bowery Songs(Koch Records)


The social warfare of the '60s defined Joan Baez, but, unlike many of her compatriots, she didn't forget the struggle when it became unfashionable. Forty-two years after her landmark In Concert albums were released, America has changed ... supposedly. Yet somehow Baez is no less relevant than she was then, her fluttery soprano still hypnotic in these stripped-bare performances recorded at the Bowery Ballroom on the Saturday following John Kerry's recent Election Night loss. Consequently, the inclusion of her take of Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington" is a painfully ironic rejoinder to the tragedy. The live selections span Baez's career, including four previously unrecorded songs such as Bob Dylan's "Seven Curses" and "Dink's Song." It's Baez's choice of Earle's "Jerusalem" to close out the album, though, that completes what can only be called a bookend to the In Concert releases. Her career began full of hope, carried out with unflagging endurance; now all that's left is unrealized dreams, tired disappointment, and sentimentality. The hope is there, just weary to the bone.

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