Gone From Danger
Produced by Wally Wilson & Kenny Greenberg
by Ky Hote
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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