From the Pile: Joan Baez, Day After Tomorrow

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When I found an envelope in my box from Sacks and Co., I assumed it was some sort of scarf catalog or Muzak compilation. Technically, most of my mail still arrives addressed to Lee, so there's really no telling. The package in fact contained a copy of Day After Tomorrow, the latest album from Joan Baez. Turns out Sacks is a PR firm; guess I was thinking it was something else.

Now, aside from a cursory knowledge of her back catalog, I'm not especially familiar with Baez's work. And more often than not, wistful ruminations from aging folk artists make me cringe, but Baez has made some major contributions, and--since the record has Nashville ties--I figured I'd give it a spin. Day After Tomorrow was produced by Steve Earle here in town, and Earle wrote a good bit of the material and plays and/or sings on most of the tracks. Baez plays TPAC on Feb. 27. My two cents on the album after the jump.

Artist: Joan Baez

Album: Day After Tomorrow

Label: Razor and Tie

Perhaps it's due to my upbringing, but I'm not huge on a cappella gospel songs with handclaps and vague biblical references, so songs like "Jericho Road" didn't really do it for me. Day After Tomorrow gets pretty snooze-core on a good portion of the tracks and Baez's voice isn't quite what it used to be (though it's still extremely powerful). Nevertheless, the instrumentation is as full and skillful as one could ever hope for. Not really sure why Baez made Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow" the titular track--it's a good, poignant song, but her version of it has the type of pensive delivery you'd expect to hear at a rededication ceremony for an aging hippie couple. Her cut of Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett's "Scarlet Tide" is possibly the best song on the album. She also covers Patty Griffin's "Mary."

I initially felt a little guilty about it, but the end of the album bored me severely. To be fair, the laid-back, bluegrassy folk scene isn't one I often vibe on. Regardless, Day After Tomorrow's opening track "God is God" establishes a promising level of energy that isn't really matched on the back half of the record. I applaud Baez for making a solid album that's her speed and doesn't do anything embarrassing like attempt to recapture the passion of her youth or, you know...get all grandma-ish, talking about her cats and her turnip plants.

If I were a carpenter and she were a lady, I just might listen to this sort of album regularly. But you know...that's if I were a carpenter. I think I'll instead recommend picking this one up for your mom. Six out of ten.

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(6/10)

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