One of the world’s most renowned and beloved singers brought highlights of her 50-year-plus career to the Key City in Cranbrook on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Judy Collins spent a couple of hours singing songs in a voice that seems as bell clear as when she first rose to international acclaim in the 1960s.
Collins, playing 12-string guitar, and accompanied by Russell Walden on piano, mesmerized the audience, whether with songs by her famous friends (Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez), her own compositions (“Mountain Girl”, “Granddaddy”), songs by other icons (Sandy Denny, Stephen Sondheim, Billy Edd Wheeler), or simply telling stories from her remarkable life — her musical childhood in Colorado, her taking part in the “Great Folk Scare” or the early 1960s, or her association with artists who changed the course of popular music.
Collins’ name-dropping provided a mini-encyclopedia of the 1960s musical revolution. She talked about headlining at a coffee house for a young folk artist just arrived in New York — “but it wasn’t me people came to see.” Later that night she had a drink with that artist, Bob Dylan.
She talked about being awoken by a phone call from producer Al Kooper, who had a song from a young Joni Mitchell, who was there with him, for Collins to try out. “Both Sides Now” became a massive hit, and helped propel Mitchell to her own stardom. She talked about her association with Stephen Stills, who wrote the song “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” about her. She mentioned how a young Ami Williamson (daughter of Australian folk legend John Williamson) told her that Collins had been an influence since Williamson had seen her on “The Muppet Show.”
But it was the music that enthralled Collins’ listeners. “Both Sides Now”, performed only one song in, sent shivers down spines, while her big hit by Stephen Sondheim, “Send in the Clowns,” was reserved for the second set (where Collins took to the piano for several songs). The Joan Baez song “Diamonds and Rust” was recorded as a duet with Collins. She warned about the new movement seemingly bent on destroying labour unions before launching into “Coal Tattoo” by Billy Edd Wheeler, and paid tribute to the late Sandy Denny with “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.” And Collins did not neglect her own songs — “Mountain Girl,” “Granddaddy” … classics all, each delivered with an interesting and revealing anecdote.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” served as encore.
All in all, it was a shimmering evening of music by an ageless folk icon.