When one mentions artists that impact social causes, the name Joan Baez usually pops up. Baez has spent an entire career pioneering inter-political awareness. And, with the voice of an angel, she has opened up people’s minds to musical material that lingered on the fringes before she made them into top ten hits.
Baez’s life story is recounted in the documentary How Sweet the Sound. It is an awe inspiring trip through the last four decades, as Baez moves from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and up to Sarajevo. Whether Joan is spending time with Steve Earle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Bishop Ernest Palmer, she makes the viewer always feel warm and welcome. Bob Dylan and Earle contribute glowing tributes, and Baez’s extended family paints a down-home portrait of a woman known for globetrotting and serving various movements. Her connections to King and Dylan are studied at length, but it’s the music and the accompanying soundtrack that stick in the mind long after the cameras stop rolling. With starters like "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" and "Fennario," it’s hard to go wrong.
How Sweet the Sound‘s folk based anthology is easily one of the most comprehensive, single-disc greatest hits compilations to hit the market. She covers Dylan on "With God on Our Side," sets the standard on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and duets with Bob on the Rolling Thunder track, "I Pity the Poor Immigrant." By the time her "Diamonds and Rust" and the Steve Earle penned "Jerusalem" take hold, the listener is in basking in the presence of a master.
How Sweet the Sound is partly a study of our times, and earnest moments well spent with this country’s national treasure, Joan Baez.
How Sweet the Sound is out now on Razor & Tie.