Joan Baez - vocals, guitar; Clay Jackson-guitar, vocals; Bob Siggins- banjo; Joe Val -mandolin, vocal; Everett Alan Lilly - string bass
One of the most accomplished interpretive singers ever, Joan Baez has relentlessly put her voice in the service of activism, particularly in the areas of nonviolence and civil and human rights. Possessing a soprano with a three-octave vocal range and a distinctive throat vibrato, Baez' highly distinctive voice put her front and center of the folk music revival in the 1960s. The Newport Folk Festival is arguably where Baez' professional career was launched, as her appearance at the 1959 Festival was directly responsible for bringing her to the attention of Vanguard Records, which released her debut album the following year. Baez would become a staple of the Festival and one of its biggest draws for many years to come.
1968 would prove to be a most productive and life changing year for Baez. She would marry David Harris and become pregnant with their son, Gabriel. Harris would soon become a focal point of the draft resistance movement. For refusing induction into the military, he would serve 20 months in a Texas Federal prison, and Baez would delve even deeper into activism as a result. Harris was also an avid country music fan, and his taste in music would rub off on Baez, who traveled to Nashville that year to record her next album. The 1968 Nashville sessions turned into a marathon of productivity, resulting in not one, but two albums. The first, Any Day Now, consisted exclusively of Dylan covers, but the second, David's Album, which would see release the following year, was indicative of Harris' taste and Baez becoming enamored by country music and more elaborate instrumentation.
At the 1968 Newport Folk Festival, Baez performed twice, first as a headliner on the Friday evening program (also available here at Wolfgang's), where she performed solo and with her sister Mimi Farina, and again in a shorter set on the Saturday evening program. The Saturday performance has never been heard until now and is of interest for several reasons. Not only does Baez' performance reflect her interest in country music, but here she is accompanied by the Charles River Valley Boys, who several years before had taken the groundbreaking step of recording Beatles' songs in a bluegrass format.
Following an introduction by banjo player Bob Siggins, in which he humorously introduces Baez as "Mrs. Jo Anne Harris," she takes the Newport stage, this time accompanied by the Charles River Valley Boys. After some discussion, Baez begins with a lovely interpretation of Claude Putnam's "Green, Green Grass of Home." Originally a major country hit for Porter Wagoner three years prior and subsequently covered by many, including Tom Jones and Johnny Cash, Baez would include this number on David's Album the following year.
To conclude this brief set, Baez encourages the audience to join in as she ventures back to a traditional murder ballad from her second album, The Banks of the Ohio. Baez' undeniably compelling voice is front and center, with the lovely instrumentation provided by the Charles River Valley Boys and the smooth high tenor voice of mandolin player Joe Val, enhancing this all too brief performance.
Written by Alan Bershaw