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Joan Baez Remains More Than the Song


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The singer-songwriter, who performs Thursday at UCLA, has found a new intimacy in her music and her life.

If all the stars had aligned for her, Joan Baez would have come away from this year's Grammy Awards with the first recording academy trophy of her long and distinguished career. She was nominated for her critically lauded album Day After Tomorrow, a sparsely produced collection of pointed and illuminating songs by contemporary writers including Steve Earle (who produced it), Patty Griffin, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Eliza Gilkyson.

As it happened, Baez, along with Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, had the misfortune of being nominated in the contemporary folk/Americana category with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, whose “Raising Sand” superstar collaboration turned into the unstoppable juggernaut of this year's Grammy ceremony.

But Baez, who plays a UCLA Live concert Thursday at Royce Hall in Westwood, always has set her sights on loftier goals than music industry awards, and to her 68-year-old eyes and ears, “Day After Tomorrow" doesn't need any additional validation.

“Most people seem to have gotten the feeling of what we intended to do," Baez said by phone recently from the home outside San Francisco, which she shares with her 95-year- old mother. “We took songs that sound as though they were written a long time ago and we made them feel contemporary."

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