Joan Baez's 'Dark Chords'

Her Latest CD Features a New Generation of Songwriters

'Dark Chords on a Big Guitar'

Dark Chords on a Big Guitar hide caption

itoggle caption

Joan Baez was in her late teens when her performance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival and her self-titled debut album of traditional folk songs thrust her into the spotlight. Four decades later, the voice on her new CD — the first from her in six years — is huskier, a bit rougher perhaps, but no less powerful. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Baez about Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

The album includes songs by younger writers, including Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Ryan Adams, Natalie Merchant and Greg Brown. "This whole CD is really seeing the world through the eyes, for the most part, of people a generation or two past me," Baez says.

She says Earle's "Christmas in Washington" comes closest to her "home base" of 1960s protest songs. "I knew that in this political atmosphere that we're living in now, I had to sing something — not just say something, but sing something from the stage that spoke my heart," she says.

Perhaps lamenting a bygone era of Vietnam-and-civil-rights-era activism that brought about change, the song includes the chorus: "So come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now."

"It isn't nostalgia for me," Baez says. "It's how are we going to do it... this time around? We actually did it last time. It took a long, long time. Is it going to be possible?"

Baez says she rarely delves into the meanings of the songs written for her, and that she was attracted more by the imagery of the ones on Dark Chords. "I've never analyzed the songs that I've either written or sung," Baez says. Later, she adds: "I don't ask anybody what they meant. Maybe I'm afraid they don't know either."

Purchase Featured Music

Dark Chords on a Big Guitar

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Dark Chords on a Big Guitar
Artist
Joan Baez
Label
Koch
Released
2003

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Joan Baez

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Joan Baez
Artist
Joan Baez
Label
Ace
Released
1960

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Blessed Are...

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Blessed Are...
Artist
Joan Baez
Label
Vanguard
Released
1971

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.