My article this month will be dedicated to an artist whose sound lends itself to the change of seasons from Summer to Fall, and who currently finds herself in the midst of a farewell tour (I desperately want to attend one of her shows at the Beacon Theater). I stumbled onto Joan Baez very late in my journey into folk music. I had already fallen in love with Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and other folk legends, and through my exploration into the genre I had heard Joan Baez’s name come up often. Yet, although she is seen as an inspiration to some of the legendary names I listed above, she never garnered as much popular attention as any of them. Even still, her importance to the genre and to music as a whole may only be paralleled by Bob Dylan, who she frequently covered. One of my all time favorite YouTube videos is a clip of Donovan (a Scottish psychedelic folk legend) speaking about a song of his called “Turquoise” which was found on an old jukebox that once belonged to John Lennon. Immediately he explained that falling in love with folk music meant falling in love with Joan Baez; her and the genre were inseparable. You can view the video here:
With that being said, it wasn’t until her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2017 that I fully delved into her music. Joan Baez is a music legend, a woman who not only paved her way into music history, but has also been a political activist since the very early days of her career. She embodied, and continues to embody what the folk music scene of the 60’s really was all about, despite still not getting her due. Her being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 despite having her first official recording in 1960 tells you all you need to know about one of the most unsung (PUN) heroes of folk music.
Baez’s folk music career mostly began in Massachusetts in the late 50’s as the folk scene was evolving around college campuses. Baez was gifted with a naturally beautiful and operatic voice, and is one hell of a guitar player; she could both sing and play complex folk songs with apparent ease. She could sing fluently in both English and Spanish and was conscious about many civil rights and social justice issues. It’s no surprise that people were instantly enamored with who they called the “Barefoot Madonna”; a naturally beautiful and talented folk singer with a crisp and clear voice. Her earthly beauty, her undeniable talent and her passion for activism paved the way for an artist who has been an driving force in the folk music genre for approximately six decades.
Before I sing Joan’s praises (pun) any more, I’ll let you know what to expect from this countdown, since I’m sure not many readers know much, if any, of her catalog. Joan primarily performed interpretations of other artists songs (she frequently covered Bob Dylan songs). Her recordings are often not much more than just her opera-esque vocals and her clean finger-picking folk-styled guitar. This countdown is best listened to on a crisp fall morning, with a cup of coffee, some songs best suited for the rain, and some best suited for the sunshine. I hope you enjoy, and hope that this article sheds light on one of the most underrated musical legends of this century, and someone who is so rarely heard on classic/soft rock radio despite her immense amount of studio recordings. I’d be a fool to not wonder if her lack of recognition comes strictly from her being a woman in a white-male dominated music industry. Anyway, without further ado:
25. For Sasha
Okay so maybe this song only made the countdown because I have a best friend named Sasha. Or maybe it’s on the countdown because it is a beautifully reflective and heavy song that exemplifies Baez’s ability to deliver classic folk well into the late 70’s (almost 20 years after her first album debuted). Yeah, let’s go with the second reason. It’s a tune that Baez penned herself (which is rare for her), and the subject matter is the Holocaust; Baez never shied away from controversial or heavy topics. The reason this song comes in so early into the countdown is because as good as the song and sound are, late 70’s Joan Baez is not prime-time Joan Baez, although it does work well as an early taste to the kind of music you’ll be digesting throughout the countdown.
24. Fare Thee Well (10,000 Miles)
This song is from Joan’s debut (and my favorite) album (self-titled) which consisted entirely of her interpretations of traditional folk songs. This tune is an English folk ballad from the 18th century, and the lyrics are a dialogue between two lovers, one who is leaving and one who is being left behind. The lyrics themselves are simple and poetic, but you can hear Joan’s vocal and guitar ability clearly throughout the song. This song hits upon elements that are the very essence of folk music. It features intricate guitar and vocal arrangements that bring about a feeling of simplicity (because in the end, it’s just guitar and vocals) and it also tells a tale, a story without any background; it is poetry set to music. It’s also pretty fitting that her final tour is titled the Fare Thee Well Tour, which I presume is named after this song nearly 58 years after her first recording of it.
23. Children and All That Jazz
Diamonds & Rust
This song is super interesting, not sure if I’ve really ever heard a song like it, and I especially haven’t heard any other Joan Baez songs like it. Most of the lyrics feature names (of children, I’m guessing) and short phrases that give glimpses into moments or feelings that may occur when raising children. I’m sure the title is a double meaning, jazz referring to the lyrics which detail the chaos (for lack of a better word) of raising children, “Look at your t-shirt/I see you’re all wet now/I’ll give you a bath if/You go to bed now”, but also jazz referring to the multiple jazz-influenced musical breakdowns in the song. All around, it’s an interesting and enjoyable tune, but much like raising children, it can be a little hectic and loud, and if you listen to it too many times in a row, you may find yourself with a parent-sized headache.
22. Billy Rose (Prison Trilogy)
Come from the Shadows
Another Baez penned song, this song is subtitled Prison Trilogy because it details three separate stories all relating to individuals and their experiences with the prison system. All of the stories seemingly end in tragedy, which is a nice counterbalance to the peaceful simplicity of the melody and fingerpicking pattern on the tune. This one’s got a bit of a country/western twang in it, and shows the depths of Joan’s political activism. Not only does she touch upon the idea of razing prisons to the ground, but she also highlights circumstances of the prisoners in the song, showing the listener that if circumstances were different, lives would not be lost, and showing the listener that a lot of times prisons do not solve problems, but can exacerbate them. It’s a song composed in 1972 that deals with subject matter that is still being debated in the states today. In the liner notes of this album, Baez writes, “…In 1972 if you don’t fight against a rotten thing you become a part of it,” and she has definitely always been a fighter.
21. Mary Hamilton
So many of these early recordings off of the Joan Baez album are on the countdown because they just exemplify what I believe the folk music genre to be about. The album itself was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Similar to “Fare Thee Well,” “Mary Hamilton” is a simple traditional folk ballad, only this one is from 16th Century Scotland. The song details the story of a woman named Mary Hamilton, who had a baby with the King of Scots. Long story short, the Queen (and everybody else) find out, even after Mary shipped her baby off to sea in a little makeshift boat, and Mary sits and recounts her feelings right before she is to be put to death. Cool relatable uplifting song, right?
20. Simple Twist of Fate
Diamonds & Rust
This is a pretty cool selection to throw on the countdown for two reasons mainly. First, it’s kind of a hard rocker for a folk artist like Joan Baez. In general, her Diamonds & Rust album is a little more dynamic than all her others as in it’s not just straight folk, and there are more instruments (and even an unfortunately underwhelming Joni Mitchell feature!) Also this is the first Bob Dylan cover that I’ve included on the countdown, even though as I’ve often stated Joan Baez covered Dylan pretty much all the time. Musically the song is great, Dylan lyrics, some pretty hard rocking guitar and a ton of awesome piano playing. I could definitely do without the Dylan impression at 2:19 though. I almost chose her cover of “Blue Sky” instead of this selection, because it is an equally hard rocker, but in terms of its comparison to the original recordings, “Simple Twist of Fate” sticks out more for sure.
19. Pack Up Your Sorrows
Pack Up Your Sorrows (Single)
Similar to the previous song, this song is on the countdown because it is really enjoyable to listen to. The sound is filled with more than just Baez’s vocals and guitar, and there’s a lot more instrumentation in the song, lending itself to more of a “folk rock” feel, instead of straight “folk.” This goes to show you though, that whether it’s folk, traditional folk, or folk rock, Baez could do it all, and do it all better than almost anybody else at the time.
18. Diamonds & Rust
Diamonds & Rust
This song is an interesting one for a few reasons. First off, it’s a Joan Baez original and as I mentioned above, Joan Baez primarily interpreted songs written by other artists and songwriters. Second, it’s a song that is about a past relationship with an ex-lover (none other than folk legend Bob Dylan) whose songs she frequently covered, both before and after their relationship had began and ended. Third, it is one of Baez’s most popular and critically acclaimed songs. So why is it coming onto the countdown so early? I guess it’s a personal choice thing, but I really love the Baez songs that make me feel like nostalgia, that remind me of autumn on a desolate east coast in the late 60’s even though I was never there. This does not do either of those for me, and occupies a niche for Baez that no other song does, but that is only warranting of a number 18 slot on the countdown (in my humble opinion, of course.)
17. Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer
Diamonds & Rust
This is the last selection from Diamonds & Rust that’s going to be included on the countdown. It’s a cover of a slightly lesser known Stevie Wonder song, and highlights a really different aspect of Baez’s sound, focusing mostly on the piano. It’s more of a soft rock/ballad, as opposed to a folk song. I think all of the songs on Diamonds & Rust highlight some really atypical aspects of Baez’s long running musical career, but it would feel unfair to overload the countdown with all of the different tracks from this album, and not focus on what Joan Baez was best known for in the first place. Anyway, this song highlights Joan’s vocal ability. The song itself is greatly composed because well, Stevie Wonder made it. It’s also the song that Stevie performed at Michael Jackson’s funeral, feel free to look up that version as well. The reason it is not higher up on the countdown is because it doesn’t stray far away enough from the original. It comes up just short of feeling like authentic Joan.
16. Heaven Help Us All
Honestly, this song is just friggin’ cool. The phrasing, the way it evolves into a choir like church hymn at the chorus, the lyrics themselves. Why does this song have such a cool jazzy feel to it, you ask? If you guessed that’s because it was first written for and performed by Stevie Wonder (I know that most people probably didn’t guess that) you would be correct. This recording though strays far away enough from the original Wonder recording to give it it’s own life when sung by Baez. The album itself is Joan’s longest studio recording to date, and I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve listened to every song on the album, but I can say with enough confidence that this is one of the gems on the album, and represents how Joan was evolving from simple guitar/vocal arrangements to more complete recordings after her experimentation with country music in the late 60’s/’70.
15. Sweet Sir Galahad
One Day at a Time
Speaking of her experimentation with Country music in the late ’60’s and 1970, this song comes from her second album of country-ish recordings. “Sweet Sir Galahad” is deeply rooted in folk, but has some very light country elements (you can hear some twang deep in the background at different moments). Also, it’s important to note that it was the first Baez-penned song to be included on one of her studio albums, that is to say that she made it throughout the entirety of the 60’s recording albums comprised of songs that she did not herself write. The lyrics were inspired by her younger sister’s relationship with a music producer, but it’s disguised as a folk tale. I initially wrote more about the events that inspired the song, but I think it would be better to have Joan Baez explain it to you herself, therefore I’ve included a live recording of this one (don’t fret, it’s nearly identical to the studio recording because Joan Baez is awesome).
14. Less Than the Song
Where Are You Now, My Son?
This one almost didn’t make the countdown initially, and I can’t even remember why. There are a lot of interesting things working here, including the drum beat that hums along throughout most of the song, giving the song sort of a “Kumbaya” vibe. Add the layered vocals and harmonies throughout the song as well as the complete dynamic change that the chorus brings and you have a pretty neat Baez song that’s unlike most of her others. I especially dig the layered “all your dreams are real” vocal at about 1:24. This song isn’t a Baez original, although it comes from an album that is comprised of a lot of songs she wrote herself.
13. No Expectations
One Day at a Time
This one is a cover of a Rolling Stones’ song that comes on Baez’s second of two country inspired albums. It’s less folky than most of her other songs, including a driving bassline, some solid piano and guitar playing and a more upbeat feel, as well as some country elements that lend themselves well to this recording. I think Joan’s recording puts a great spin on an already good Stones track (I might even prefer it to the original). It’s got a light and breezy aspect to it, which can lend itself to the melancholy, but at peace lyrics. It’s great to hear Baez on these recordings that feel like they could belong on a classic rock station, just to remind you that even though she could sing folk and protest songs, she was also an extremely talented musician through and through.
12. With God on Our Side
Joan Baez in Concert
Here is a live recording from pretty early in her career. Her vocals are clear and strong, and the guitar playing is nice as well, but the subject matter is anything but nice. Initially upon hearing the song, I thought, “How nice, a civil rights activist can still sing songs about God and religion. It’s rare that those two go hand-in-hand nowadays.” I (as I often am) was wrong about the subject matter of the song. The “with God on our side” she sings often is only there to highlight the contradiction: the contradiction that a nation killed so many of its native residents in the name of God, that America is cool with Germany after a near genocide and still considers itself the nation of God, and how often we align ourselves with God when it comes to matters of war and matters of killing others. I think her point is, that if God was truly on our side there would be no war at all. The message still rings true today, as a lot of these old protest songs and civil rights era messages are suddenly and sadly relevant again. With all that said, the song still sounds great and Baez’s talent can’t be denied throughout the recording. You might want to listen to this one with the lyrics on the screen. The link I’ve included is from ’66, although the album version is from ’62.
11. There but for Fortune
So this next number was a charting hit for Baez in ’64. It is a cover (the original writer being a man named Phil Ochs), and to be honest with you, I don’t entirely understand the meaning of the song itself. “There but for Fortune” leads me to believe that the unfortunate people she sings about in the four verses (a prisoner, a hobo, a drunk, a nation bombed) are only separated from a young person in a positive state because of misfortune, bad luck, and nothing more. It is a somber sounding folk diddy that’s easy to listen to and get lost in because it’s so gentle, but like many of her other songs, there is a much deeper meaning behind the lyrics, and my guess is that it’s meant to let you ponder how fortunate (or unfortunate) we are, given nothing more than the circumstances that we are born into.
10. Farewell, Angelina
This recording, a Bob Dylan cover, comes in the mid sixties, when Joan Baez was evolving with the folk scene, and including arrangements that were more than just reworkings of traditional folk ballads (i.e. Mary Hamilton, Fare Thee Well). Even on this recording, it is overwhelmingly folk, but you can begin to here some bass and drums quietly waltzing along behind her vocals and guitar. I use the term waltz purposefully as well, given the song does have a folk/waltz feel to it: two genres that very, very rarely cross paths. This one has hints of anti-war and lost innocence, and I definitely prefer the Baez cover to the Dylan original.
9. Love Song to a Stranger
Come from the Shadows
I knew I was going to be drawn to this song immediately upon seeing the title. We so rarely get love songs from Baez that are accessible, given her propensity to cover traditional folk songs, and this one is a song that Baez wrote herself. Even though in the “Sweet Sir Galahad” live video listed above she puts down her own songwriting, the poetry in this song is absolutely astounding. When you listen to this one, try to do it twice, once to watch the video, her playing and to experience the live performance itself, and once to watch with the lyrics on screen. I won’t break it down line by line, and it may not be a love song in the traditional sense of the word, but for someone who has spent the majority of his 20’s single, this song details how beautiful some of those memories can be, even if they are not “love” in a traditional forever sense.
8. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Any Day Now
There’s a whole lot of Joan’s country sound going to work on this one. From her phrasing to the melody and guitar themselves, this song is short, sweet and to the point. Baez is someone who has mastered the art of interpreting others songs, specifically Bob Dylan’s and this one is no different. It’s a great take on the original, more melodic and breezy feeling. Also that little piano breakdown at 1:11 is awesome, and so is the way the piano fills the rest of the song in the background. Plain and simple, this is just a fantastic song that, if you’re not careful, can find itself stuck in your head before you know it. I know I found myself humming the refrain throughout the days after my second listen or so.
7. Please Come to Boston
From Every Stage
This is a live selection from her 1975 concert tour. A cover of a Dave Loggins original, this tune is just perfect. It’s got a real easy listening feel, and I fell in love with the tune as soon as Joan opens up with “Please come to Boston in the springtime.” The song is song from the point of view of a woman who is receiving letters from a lover in Boston, Denver and then Los Angeles, pleading with her to move with him to these different locations. Honestly I just love the whole verse where he pleads with her to come to Boston; for anyone who has been to Boston and can understand its charm, and its promise for a nicer, simpler and slower life (even more so in the 70’s, I’d assume), this song does a great job of painting that picture with the words and music. “You can sell your paintings out on the sidewalk, by a cafe where I hope that I’ll be working soon,” is such a great line, the lyrics really do sound as if they were taken from actual love letters and that highlights Baez’s knack for picking extraordinary selections to perform. There is some slight western twang in the background of this one, and the chorus fills up with harmonizing voices and drums in a turn away from the softer, more reflective verses. All in all, fantastic song.
Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2
Another live selection, which I particularly like for the intro. Here is a traditional Scottish folk song covered by Baez early in her career. It sets itself aside because of the sing-songy lyrics and the way all of the lines end in an “Oh.” What’s really great on this particular recording (aside from the melody itself and the bit about her having a good time and asking to take off her shoes, met by applause) is her guitar playing and finger-picking. The recording, even though its from a live show, is incredibly clean, and you can hear her guitar work very clearly. It’s both an impressive testament to her musical ability, as well as a great sounding classic folk tune. What I wouldn’t give to have been at a Joan Baez concert in the early 60’s, seems like some pretty interesting stuff.
5. Silver Dagger
Another selection from Joan Baez’s first eponymous album. It delivers pure unadulterated folk, as a primary source from a time where folk music was infiltrating the pop music world. I’d be naive to say that Joan Baez was a founder of folk, but she was part of the class of folk musicians who helped folk music infiltrate the popular music world and as a result pop culture itself. The album itself received special recognition from the Library of Congress for it’s “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.” “Silver Digger” is the first song off of this first album, and it’s a really great introduction to Baez. The guitar playing is pretty off the wall and her vocals are strong and clean. This traditional folk ballad details a female turning away a potential suitor at the warning of her mother. I just love that first line though, “Don’t sing love songs, you’ll wake my mother.” A lot of folk music can really bring you to a different time and place just with a line like that, not at all having to set a scene, or give a prologue or preface. Folk music is the music of story telling, and this recording is a prime example of early Joan Baez, and early popular folk music.
4. The President Sang Amazing Grace
Whistle Down the Wind
To go along with her Fare Thee Well Tour, Joan Baez also released a new album called Whistle Down the Wind. I always try to include a modern song on all of these countdowns as a way of saying that none of these artists have truly passed their prime, but that the music industry has changed instead. Journey had “After All These Years”, Cat Stevens had “See What Love Did to Me”, and unfortunately Nina Simone passed before I could throw a post millennium song on the countdown. This selection however, seems like the best one of the modern choices thus far. I’ve highlighted a few of Joan Baez’s songs that deal overtly with political situations throughout the 60’s and 70’s, and she is an artist who has spent her life advocating for social justice and reform. I mentioned previously that a lot of these issues have come full circle, and we are often confronting harsh realities and deep divides even within tight familial units. I try to not be overtly political in my articles, but with an artist like this you really can’t help it, and I deeply deeply believe that the current administration has pushed down the gas pedal on the issues that drive people with different viewpoints further apart. So after about a decade of not releasing any studio material, Joan Baez released an album of new music, and on it she released the song I’ve selected here. “The President Sang Amazing Grace” (another interpretation, not originally her song) is about the shooting that took place in Charleston, and Obama’s reaction. It opens up with a very church sounding piano, and Baez’s voice sounds weathered and aged, but still immaculate; almost as if she’s acknowledging that she has been singing for all these years and what has really changed? A nation and community that so desperately needed healing, and needed to feel like things were going to be alright, were met by a leader who seemed to know exactly what to say. He did not try to drive a divide between the shooter and the victims. He did not advocate for the white supremacist shooter or have to be begged to condemn the shooter. He placed emphasis on the word “United” at the end of his sermon, with the goal of bringing people together, especially in the wake of tragedy. When he begins to sing, you can see the faces in the crowd light up, even after such an unspeakable tragedy; a President, who was bashed for being a “secret Muslim” performing one of the most beautifully Christian eulogies I have ever seen by a sitting President. I could go on for paragraphs, but I will just include the link to the song, and then the link to the event the song is based off of, and hope that you can feel a semblance of the optimism I feel when seeing/hearing those two back-to-back: it’s an optimism that I haven’t truly felt in a couple years.
3. Forever Young
From Every Stage
So I may be biased here. I think if any artist that I cover does a cover of “Forever Young,” I’d probably include it on their countdown just because I believe it to be a supremely written song, filled with emotion and nostalgia and all that good stuff. This live recording was taken from a 1975 concert which was then thrown onto a 1976 album with other song excerpts from the tour itself. Aside from Bob Dylan’s spectacular lyrics (seriously, I love this fucking song), Baez delivers it slowly, gracefully, and with power when needed. The recording isn’t too long, it doesn’t try to bring the house down, it just does exactly what it needs to do. I hope I haven’t misled people into thinking that Joan Baez is simply some glorified cover artist disguised as a folk icon. When she decided to “cover” (I’d prefer the term interpret) a song, she really has a talent of knowing when to mold it to her sound and when to not. She is a master of interpreting the songs of others, not simply covering them, and this recording is a prime example of her ability to do so. Beautiful stuff on this one.
2. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
This song, originally sung by the Band (who were frequent collaborators with Bob Dylan), was the first song I heard and loved by Joan Baez. It’s got more folk-rock to it, than just traditional folk (you can tell the difference by the pace and the amount of instrumentation in it). It’s actually one of Baez’s highest charting songs. There are some differences in Baez’s lyrics compared to the original, and apparently that’s because she never sat and learned the song and it’s lyrics officially, but based her own recording off of her listening to the Band’s album multiple times. This song has a more radio-friendly feel to it than most of her other songs, which could explain the way it climbed the charts. When I was searching for a YouTube video to put down for this one, I read one of the comments on a live version and it said, “She was a year ahead of me at Boston University. she got kicked out for wearing pants.” Now I’m not sure how true that is, but there’s really nothing more Joan than that. She’s a badass, a nonconforming kick-ass musician with a career that is still going on since the 60’s. This song about the civil war comes in at number two strictly because of it’s listenability; it’s easy to like, easy to listen to, and easy to hit the replay button on.
1. A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
If you’re not in the mood for this one, it can be difficult to listen to, but if you are in the mood for a song like this, it’s nothing short of beautiful. Clocking in at 7:40 in running time (and I hope you know I absolutely love long songs), this Dylan cover goes through many ups and downs, in mood and volume. When I talk about that Sunday morning with a coffee kind of folk music, this is what I mean. It’s a song from relatively early in Baez’s career, in the stage right after she was singing pretty much only traditional folk ballads, and started covering Dylan and adding more instrumentation to her music. The instrumentation is immaculate, the guitar in this song is light and airy, like rain. It is not just Joan playing guitar on this one, but in the first few seconds you can see what I mean when I say immaculate. The lyrics themselves, well they’re pretty dark. Bob Dylan wrote the poetry with basically all negative themes, ranging from apocalyptic to cryptic to just plain dark. It was speculated that the hard rain he was singing about could have been atomic rain, or a nuclear fallout, as the song was written right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For some reason though, when performed by Joan Baez, the song STILL manages to be somewhat soothing. When I think of the hard rain in Baez’s interpretation it feels different, and maybe it’s because she is a woman singing and that inspires more hope and confidence in me than when I hear Dylan sing it. I end up thinking of a hard rain to wash all of the dark themes in question away, a hard rain that’s like folk music and writing on a grey Sunday morning. I think of a hard rain that feels like the two guitars gently intertwining in the background of a 7-minute song that can lull me into a sense of calm. I think of a hard rain that sounds like the legend of Joan Baez.
As always, thanks for reading all the way through. Joan Baez is one of our greatest living musical legends, and does not at all get the due she deserves, but hopefully this article provided some highlights to a musical catalog that spans almost six decades, and has gone through many phases and changes along the way. The honorable mentions section for Joan Baez is a long one, just based off of the sheer number of songs she’s recorded (I mean, 25 studio albums is astounding). I’ll list them in chronological order:
60’s: Her Traditional Folk, Mostly Dylan Covers and Slight Country Era
“Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (Live)”, ” We Shall Overcome (Live)”, “Turquoise” (this is the song from the Donovan video at the beginning of the article – full circle!), “Dangling Conversation” (Simon & Garfunkel cover), “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”,
70’s: Increased focus on writing her own songs & adding more instruments, and an album entirely in Spanish!
“Ghetto”, “Blessed Are…”, “In the Quiet Morning (for Janis Joplin)”, “Gracias a la Vida”, “Hello in There”, “Jesse”, “Dida” (feat. Joni Mitchell), “Blowin’ in the Wind (Live)”
80’s: Didn’t get into this much, but some nice world/African centered songs
“Asimbonanga”, “Biko”, “China”
90’s-Present: Deeper voice, still remarkable talent, alternative rock sound