Proving that Joan Baez never really goes away, Play Me Backwards is a fine 1992 release from the legendary singer/songwriter. The smooth production of Wally Wilson and Kenny Greenberg frames her voice beautifully, with a contemporary, yet undated sound. And, with songs courtesy of Mary-Chapin Carpenter, John Hiatt, and Janis Ian, how can you go wrong? Although it's not a ground-breaking artistic achievement, it's Joan Baez, and it's definitely an enjoyable way to pass 40 minutes. Getting things started, the bouncy groove of the percussive title track belies its tale of a stolen childhood. The images drawn are vivid, and the pain recalled in the reclaiming is tangible, but forgiving. The wistful melancholy of Ian's "Amsterdam" is gorgeously handled with a delicate maturity, as is Hiatt's triumphantly hopeful "Through Your Hands." In another upbeat swing, "I'm With You" is one of the main highlights of the record. Dedicated to her son Gabe, Baez vows her steadfast support and presence as he makes his way into a life of his own. Any kid would be proud to have such a tribute showcasing their parent's unconditional love. The album closes with another loving family honor. Written for her father, "Edge of Glory" is the opposite bookend to "I'm With You," as it contemplates the attempts of pleasing and healing in the father-daughter relationship. From child to mother and all stops in between, Play Me Backwards details an emotional journey as seen through the eyes of Baez. It's a lovely trip.
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AllMusic Review by Kelly McCartney