Joan Baez - Dark Chords on a Big Guitar

Music Reviews Joan Baez
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Joan Baez - Dark Chords on a Big Guitar

Joan Baez  hasn’t written a song in 10 years, but she maintains an unerring instinct for choosing good material. Dark Chords, her first studio album in six years, mines the work of non-mainstream writers, but all should be familiar to Paste readers, including Greg Brown, Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary. Her amazing voice is still intact, and while Baez has lost a bit at the high end, it’s replaced with an emotional power that wrings subtle emotion from every word—and silence. The singer’s current touring band supplies a moody, shimmering background that makes the work of disparate writers sing with one voice. Duke McVinnie’s sustained power chords heighten the drama of Welch’s tale of attempted rape and murder in “Caleb Meyer,” Greg Brown’s cynical lullaby “Sleeper” is brightened by a chiming acoustic guitar, and Josh Ritter’s “Wings” is given an almost folksy reading with McVinnie’s acoustic licks complemented by a bowed double bass and George Favori’s sparse percussion.

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