Release Date: Sep 9, 2008
Record label: Razor & Tie
Having recorded Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington" on her last studio album, 2003's Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, and his "Jerusalem" on her 2005 live album, Bowery Songs, and toured with him in between, Joan Baez has turned to Earle as the producer of her 24th studio album, Day After Tomorrow; he also contributes three of the ten songs, two of them, "God Is God" and "I Am a Wanderer," specially written. Earle seems to have taken as his assignment the goal of creating a modern Joan Baez album that is in the tradition of her great albums of the 1960s. First, he assembled a group of acoustic musicians in Nashville, anchored by multi-instrumental string players Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott (a rhythm section of Viktor Krauss and Kenny Malone is sometimes present also), and then he and Baez cherry-picked recent songs from contemporary singer/songwriters working in the spirit of those Baez covered earlier in her career, including Elvis Costello, Eliza Gilkyson, Patty Griffin, and Tom Waits.
Grasslands, wind in your hair, long, dusty roads travelled - it's all evoked in Joan's fine 24th studio album, and her voice, high and flowing, low and gravelly, flows timelessly through it like a mountain stream. Guided by the big, gentle hands of producer Steve Earle, she sings songs by her favourite writers (but no Dylan here), including T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits (the title track). Classy, magical, and 67, she ponders her exit, but strives on: 'Every day on Earth's another chance to get it right...' .
It's 50 years since Joan Baez launched her career in a Boston folk club, and she is still a force to be reckoned with - both because of her political stance and her ability to reinterpret new songs by other artists. The process continues on her first studio album in five years, produced by Steve Earle - who makes use of a classy, understated acoustic band, featuring his own guitar and vocal work. But what makes this set successful is the choice of songs.