Joan Baez began her illustrious career back in 1958, when at age 17 and still at High School, she cut her first songs in San Francisco for a couple of chancers who would later try to cash in on her sixties success. She was well aware of the re-emergence of interest in folk music, acknowledging Pete Seeger and Odetta as primary influences, and by 1959 she had made enough of a name for herself to get invited to appear at the Newport Folk Festival that year. This brought here into the orbit of Vanguard Records and that became her recording home from 1960 to 1971, issuing a string of albums that raised her quickly to the position of the world's premier female folk singer. As the sixties progressed, and the earlier impact of the folk music revival declined, she began to look towards the world of country music along with many of her contemporaries. It was a time when much new material was being written, and many older country styles were being embraced by young musicians. This twenty-track selection of Joan's country recordings for Vanguard Records reflects this wide spectrum, with four distinct sections identified: Songs Of the South, Love Songs, Roots & Prospects and Old Timey Songs. The latter category draws from traditional sources, but sprinkled around the other sections are plenty of songs from the then new wave of writers like Robbie Robertson of the Band, Kris Kristofferson, Gram Parsons, Mickey Newbury and Jesse Winchester. Although well-known as an interpreter of others' songs, Joan was also a writer, and her song ‘Outside The Nashville City Limits’ is included here.
Like many others, Joan had looked to the Nashville studios and their hardcore of experienced session players for these tracks. Their participation was most attractive to record companies as their supreme playing talents ensured swift and tidy completion of schedules and, as it was a time when players’ names had begun to appear on album back sleeves, their names were recognised as a sign of quality and a sound that was very much the flavour of the later sixties. Some tracks here feature players led by Norbert Putnam, and some by Grady Martin, but in both cases the pool of players would have featured names such as Kenny Buttrey, Hal Rugg, Hargus Robbins, Pete Drake, Buddy Spicher, Harold Bradley, David Briggs and Jerry Reed. Even Steve Stills was around for some of Joan's sessions. Consequently all the songs here have fine professional tracks to allow Joan to put here stamp on the songs, with the ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Brand New Tennessee Waltz’ being a very fine pair to open proceedings. With ‘Long Black Veil’, ‘Hickory Wind’, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ and ‘I Still Miss Someone’ being then contemporary songs for Joan to cover, it's easy to see how these songs were, and remain, such a popular part of Joan's catalogue and this collection is a key addition to Ace's extensive set of her albums.