Charleston News

Zoe’s off to Charleston for the Emanuel 9 Rally for Unity. Joan Baez will be there to perform “The President Sang Amazing Grace” and Zoe will be part of her entourage. Alas, I can’t be there given my recent surgery, but it will be amazing.

The video is also being screened in New York:

Additionally, the official music video for “The President Sang Amazing Grace” will be screened ahead of most shows at New York’s IFC Center beginning tomorrow, Friday, June 22, through next Thursday, June 28 (excluding first shows of the day, midnight screenings, screenings with in-person appearances or specialty one-off screenings).


A Bit of Zoe News

Two weeks from tomorrow, Zoe will be in Charleston with Joan Baez at the #Emanuel9RallyforUNITY to End Gun Violence & Acquire Racial Reconciliation. I love the poster:

I’ll also just note this review in the local student newspaper:

Before performing Woody Guthrie’s protest song ‘Deportee’, Baez provides context, describing the press coverage of the 1948 Los Gatos DC-3 crash in which only the plane’s staff, and not the twenty-eight Mexican citizens on board were named (the Mexicans referred to merely as ‘deportees’). She pays tribute to them, and to all refugees, and pays tribute too to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, before playing a harrowingly beautiful rendition of Zoe Mulford’s (who attended the gig) song, ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’, written in response to President Obama’s eulogy at the Charleston shooting service.

Hey student journalist! Zoe lives in Manchester and her main groupie works at the University!

Some Baez Concert Reviews

As the album reviews trailed off, I haven’t been tracking the Whistle Down the Wind news coverage as obsessively. But I still keep a weather eye out and there have been some Zoe mentions in the concert reviews.

There was an extensive review/ interview by Paul Liberatore:

Baez thinks it’s the best album she’s ever done.

What elevates it above the 30-some albums she’s made in her long career is “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a hymn-like lament that singer-songwriter Zoe Mulford wrote to mourn the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings, a hate crime that took the lives of nine African-American worshipers gunned down by a white supremacist during a prayer service.

“This album would have been a really nice collection of folk songs, but that song just takes it to another level,” she says over tea made from mint she picked in her garden.

She’s been invited to sing it at commemoration events that the City of Charleston and the Emanuel AME Church are planning in mid-June to honor the families of those killed, the shooting survivors and the church congregation. She hopes to squeeze it in after the Paris dates and before she has to return to Europe in late July for concerts in Austria and Germany.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” she says, “but I’m going to be there.”


Perhaps the most moving of her recent material, however, was “The President Sang Amazing Grace” about the Charleston church shooting. It pulled the rug from under the feet.

The Guardian:

It was a tribute to the new songs, including the angry eco-protest Another World and the heartfelt The President Sang Amazing Grace, a modern civil rights song echoing the struggles of the 1960s – recited rather than sung – , that they didn’t pale in that exalted company.

There was one negative mention from the Financial Times:

She also suffered from a tendency to pick songs from the say-what-you-see school of writing. Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace” took the profoundly moving moment of Barack Obama singing at the funeral of one of the Charleston church shooting victims in 2015, and turned it into Hallmark greetings card material: “In Charleston in the month of June / The mourners gathered in a room / The president came to speak some words / And the cameras rolled and the nation heard.” Goodness knows what Baez saw in it, and she couldn’t redeem it.

It’s a weird criticism—what other “say what you see” songs are they referring to? What’s wrong with such songs? How are the quoted lyrics Hallmark greeting card like? Indeed, there’s an internal incoherence as Hallmark greeting cards aren’t reporterlike.

It’s not the only oddity:

If you don’t want earnest, don’t go to see Joan Baez, where earnestness reaches the heights of Baez doing a version of “Imagine” in which she hastily spoke each line before singing it, so the audience knew exactly how to join in.

She did give each line before singing it which is standard for sing alongs, though usually for songs which aren’t as well known. It has nothing at all to do with earnestness.

Given that “President” is by far the most popular and critically acclaimed song on the album, I’d have thought that some reflection of that would be sensible to include. After all, what Joan saw t in was what tons of other people saw in it. So, it’s a bit mysterious.

The Arts Desk:

Baez of course plays guitar, swapping between two custom-model Martins on which she finger picks nimbly, even adding a touch of lead on several numbers, including Zoe Mulford’s exquisite “The President Sang Amazing Grace”.

A Bit of Zoe News

“The President Sang Amazing Grace” didn’t make this list of Baez’s 5 best songs but it’s a bonus track 😉

Zoe just booked her travel to Charleston for the 3 year anniversary of the murder of the 9. There may be some sort of Baez duet! Who knows! We’ll see her this week again in Manchester.

This Week’s Minor Zoe News

There’s only one little but cool bit. Zoe was mentioned in a bio as a notable collaborator:

An adept multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer, Michael G. Ronstadt has been captivating audiences throughout North America for nearly two decades. A master at his craft, Ronstadt traverses a mélange of musical styles that range from anywhere between folk, jazz, classical, Americana and the wildly ethereal. He lends his talents to a broad range of projects, including solo work and a variety of small ensembles, as well as larger bands.

Primarily known for his prowess as a cellist, Michael G. has contributed his cello to hundreds of recordings from accomplished artists around the world. These include such names as Craig Bickhardt, Ezra Vancil, Amber Norgaard, and Zoe Mulford.

I found this so cool. When I showed it to Zoe she found it funny that Michael G. didn’t mention his relation to Linda Ronstadt!

(Ha! It’s from his official bio page. Very cool!)

Mini Zoe News Update

There’s not a lot of news but there is one big piece:

Members of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church and its supporters will hold an anti-gun violence and racial reconciliation rally in June that will draw 1960s peace movement folk singer Joan Baez and others to Marion Square.

The gathering, timed for the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed nine church members during Bible study inside Emanuel, is being billed as a “call to action.”

Baez recently released her version of “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a cover of Zoe Mulford’s song about President Barack Obama’s appearance in Charleston for the funeral of slain Emanuel pastor Clementa Pinckney.

…Other speakers include family members of the victims, political figures and entertainers

This is amazingly cool. We’d love to go and I’m hoping Zoe will be able to. (I’ll probably be recovering from surgery.)