Road Trip Music: northern California
This edition of the road trip finds us in northern California: bustling cities, romantic small towns, redwood forests and the Big Sur and across the Golden Gate and down to Berkeley. The soundtrack for this part of the trip comes from Joan Baez, a woman who has called northern California home for much of her more than five decades of making music.
Not long ago, the PBS series American Masters did a program on Baez. That has come out on dvd, with a CD fifteen songs drawn from across the musician’s career to go along. They are both called How Sweet The Sound and are well worth your time. If you do not know or don’t remember the earlier days of Baez’ public career, when she put her life on the line during the civil rights days, for example, you’ll get a good idea of the social justice interests that have always formed a part of her work, and her life. Through interviews with Baez and others you’ll get a candid picture of the private woman behind the music, as well as insights on making a living in the spotlight. The music recording includes several traditional Appalachian and English ballads, a trademark of Baez’ early career during the folk music revival, as well as songs from the civil rights era, and a duet with Bob Dylan. There are also several of her popular radio hits, including The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Diamonds and Rust, as well as the recent song Jerusalem.
I’d add another album from the Baez catalogue for this road trip, too, one called First Ten Years On it you’ll find the haunting traditional song Geordie, the well known English folk song Mary Hamilton, and Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. Baez is one of the best song interpreters around, mastering that art of serving the song’s story while putting her own ideas into it as well. The First Ten Years is a really excellent place to hear that gift.
Also to note: you’ve met Irish guitarist John Doyle here along the music road before, in his work with Cathie Ryan, Alison Brown, and others, and in his solo albums. He’s backing up Baez on the road these days, and you’ll see him at work in recent concert footage on the dvd, as well. John Doyle is also an artist of the decade.
you may also wish to see
Music Road: road trip music: American northwest
Music Road: exiles return: karan casey & john doyle
This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I’m partnering up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’ll find there. Stop by and see what the Library has in mind to inspire travels in northern California.
For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins