Joan Baez - Joan Baez (1960), 3/10

Joan Baez’s self-titled folk record is as uninteresting as it is frustrating. Her voice has character and ability, but her overuse of tremolo and fast vibrato is comical at best and ear piercing at worst. The album itself peaks at the very beginning in “Silver Dagger”, then quickly diverts into an exercise of somehow monotonous yet discordant caterwauling. “East Virginia” and “Henry Martin” are among the most listenable tracks, the rest blend together into a frustrating obscurity of folk tunes. Her guitar work is one crutch to lean on but is mostly overpowered by her shrill soprano. This all may seem harsh, especially if you pick out a song or two, but after a true forty-four minutes I’m sure the majority will feel the same. At its best Joan Baez meets the standard, average sound quality of contemporary folk music, but at its worst it is almost unlistenable. The songs are still somehow jagged in regards to a narrative, and never come together to realize and particular message or sound beyond a showcase of Baez’s individual technical talent. These covers essentially deteriorate in her grasp and flounder one after the other. They require a subtlety simply not seen or heard here. Her enthusiasm is just about all that I can point to as admirable and is perhaps one of the album’s greatest obstacles. Her voice is an asset that becomes a deficiency to the music and the result is a sub-par album not worth exploring.