Joan Baez (Bonus Track Version)
The then-19-year-old's debut blew the dust from ballads hundreds of years old, making these ancient tales of murder, war, love, and revenge sound as vital as anything found in a newspaper headline, then or now. Recorded in just 4 days, the album sounds a lot like the live sets she was doing at the time, backed only by her own lovely, precise, often underrated guitar (an additional guitar appears on just a few tracks). The spare accompaniment makes the most of her gift: that startling soprano, piercing, pure, and almost unbearably clear.It's all quite unstylish these days — Baez is cool,formal, and sincere where we like our folksingers warm and intimate — but the power of the instrument can't be denied. And it's a mistake to see her innate elegance as detachment. In stunning interpretations of tunes like "Silver Dagger," "All My Trails," and the Child ballad "Mary Hamilton," Baez sounds sorrowful, tender, and bitter by turns, and her command of vocal dynamics — the way that voice can swoop from delicate to powerful in the course of a single phrase — makes these often stiff, stoic traditional songs unexpectedly expressive and moving.