Joan Baez - Gone From Danger

Gone From Danger

Joan Baez

Produced by Wally Wilson & Kenny Greenberg

Guardian 59357

Guardian Records
810 Senenth Ave.
New York, NY 10019

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Ky Hote
(kyhotenow@yahoo.com)

On Gone From Danger, Baez successfully bridges the generation gap between the old school and the new schools of folk music by featuring songs by composers known mostly to other songwriters. Baez' well earned legendary status comes form her pure vocal style that has always mixed well with confrontive politics, old English ballads and topical protest songs. The voice that brought melodic interpretation to Dylan's ballads and evoked Amazing Grace as a protest song shows appreciation for these younger songwriters, Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Betty Elders, Sinead Lohan and Mark Addison of The Borrowers. Gone From Danger's contemporary sound opens with a tremolo guitar chord, but the production highlights Baez as a performer. There is no cut on the album that couldn't be well represented by her on a stage with her guitar.

Addison penned Mercy Bound, which closes the album, but would have worked well as the opener. Its energetic chord progression and Baez's spirited vocal gives the observer a strong voice. She seems influenced by one of her own proteges in Lucinda Williams.

Late last night I awoke in a dream
With the sound of a voice that was almost a scream
Hohohoh
From out from the city and out of the street
Out where the wind hits the cold cold creek
Hohohoh

In your doorways I have shivered
in your alleys I have gone to ground
But I will be delivered
Someday I will be Mercy Bound

But had Baez decided to open with Mercy Bound, the first impression would be of Joan singing energetic important songs of the times. Instead she chose Sinead Lohan's No Mermaid, setting a tone of introspection and newly found personal strength. The dreamy piano work by Dennis Bernside gives inner voice to the song's declaration:

I am no Mermaid
I am no Mermaid
I am no fisherman's slave
I am no Mermaid
I am no Mermaid
I keep my head above the waves

While the album's predominant voice is distinctly of a strong independent woman, a notable exception is Richard Shindell's Fishing, written from the perspective of an INS interrogator. Her pristine voice seems incongrous to that of a threatening interrogator, until you see that the interrogator's ruthlessness is masked by gentleness, but is nonetheless threatening.

Here's how it works
I"ve got these faces
You give them names
I won't deport you
Make sure you face
My tape recorder
So now that you know
Who's skin you're saving
In this photograph
Who's this one waving
I bet you know
So speak up amigo

Betty Elders' Crack In The Mirror is fragile and edgy without being tepid or whiny. The story of living in abusive families and relationships is heard here like voices in our heads. Fretless bass by Michael Rhodes and Dar Williams' backing vocals add to the eerie feeling of reflecting on one's life while looking in the mirror.

You say you don't remember
These things you can't forget
You say that it's been too damn long
It's time to bury the hatchet
There's a mirror in the house at the edge of the town
There's a crack in the mirror, all fall down

Williams contributes vocals to 3 songs and Baez covers 2 of her songs, If I Wrote You and February. The latter is given particular poignancy and definition by Baez' age compared to the innocence heard in Williams' version of it. This song was meant to be sung by an older singer with years of confidence underlying the current year of cynicism.

The nights are cold and long and scary
Can we live through February
You stopped and pointed
And you said "that's a crocus"
And I said, "what's a Crocus"
And you siad "it's a flower"
And I tried to remember, but I said "what's a flower"
And you said "I still love you"

Gone From Danger is a far cry from previous genre shifts such as her cover of Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry. Here her interpretations are in the context of concerned passionate elder conspiring to reveal obscure writers. She reflects the writer's voice of each artist, but wisely casts them in her own experiences.

Tracks:

  • 1.) No Mermaid
  • 2.) Reunion Hill
  • 3.) Crack In The Mirror
  • 4.) February
  • 5.) Fishing
  • 6.) If I Wrote You
  • 7.) Lily
  • 8.) Who Do You Think I Am
  • 9.) Mercy Bound
  • 10.) Money For Floods

Song credits: (1, 8) Sinead Lohan: (2, 5, 10) Richard Shindell; (3) Betty Elders; (4, 6) Dar Williams; (7) Joan Baez/Sharon Rice/Wally Wilson/Kenny Greenberg (9) Mark Addison

Edited by David N. Pyles (dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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