Joan Baez’s “Fare Thee Well” tour

The folk queen is on the road one last time, or so she says. Her voice may be darker than it once was, but that actually is no bad thing – the lengthening shadows give the lyrics extra resonance.  The material from her new album, “Whistle Down the Wind” is very classy indeed, and the standards, of course, still ring out:

Her political idealism certainly seems undimmed. The Times They Are a-Changin’ was dedicated to the school pupils campaigning for a change in America’s gun laws. And if she didn’t mention her country’s president by name — his name, one senses, has become the ultimate swear word — the fact that Barack Obama was the subject of Zoe Mulford’s ballad, The President Sang Amazing Grace, was an eloquent verdict on his successor. Populists, though, would argue that Baez’s homily on refugees and immigrants, delivered between songs, is a gift to the Steve Bannons of this world: “We have so much, they have so little. Let ’em in.”

[…] If Baez remains a political animal, it was her meditation on mortality and loss on Another World — borrowed from Anohni of Antony and the Johnsons — that made the biggest impression. The song, she explained, “probably reflects how I feel better than any song I know”. Conjuring up a dirge-like beat on her guitar using the flat of her hand, she peered deep into the abyss without losing her nerve.

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