By KARIN LIPSON
Published: October 24, 2008
FOR the singer-songwriter Caroline Doctorow, making her newest album,
"Another Country: The Songs of Richard and Mimi Fariña," struck an
intensely personal note.
"Because of the way my life went when I was younger, it so happens
that Richard and Mimi Fariña are my muse," Ms. Doctorow, 50, said
recently in the kitchen of her home here, a few yards from the little
guest cottage where she recorded much of the album last summer.
The Fariñas were a charismatic couple on the 1960s folk scene: He was
the dashing counterculture writer and musician who composed most of
their songs; she, the ethereally beautiful younger sister of Joan
Baez who also sang and played the guitar.
For a while, Ms. Doctorow said, Richard Fariña gave another young
folkie named Bob Dylan, a friend and sometime rival, "a run for his
money." But in 1966, Mr. Fariña died in a motorcycle accident at the
age of 29, two days after the publication of his novel "Been Down So
Long It Looks Like Up to Me," which became something of a cult classic.
The Fariñas' modest musical output also attained iconic status for
many lovers of folk music, including Ms. Doctorow. But her first muse
was no doubt Joan Baez, whom she met as a child.
Ms. Doctorow's father, the writer E. L. Doctorow, was then in
publishing, and was working with Ms. Baez on an autobiography
("Daybreak," published in 1968); during the project, Ms. Baez would
visit the Doctorows' Westchester home, even showing Caroline some
chords on the guitar.
"You can imagine, when you're 8 and Joan Baez teaches you guitar
chords," Ms. Doctorow said, with a smile. "Your destiny is sealed."
Living in a literary home didn't hurt, either, for a future
songwriter. Reading was emphasized, and "a lot of poets and writers"
Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut, to name two "would come to the
house socially," she recalled.
In the 1970s, Ms. Doctorow and her high-school friends would often
hop a Greyhound bus to visit folk festivals. She also kept learning
the material of the performers she most admired.
The death in 2001 of Mimi Fariña (whom she had also met) led Ms.
Doctorow to produce "Carmel Valley Ride," a 2003 album inspired by
the Fariñas' life and work.
Then why revisit that with "Another Country"?
"The other record was mostly songs I wrote myself," Ms. Doctorow
said. And, to her surprise, no one had yet recorded a full
retrospective album of the Farinas' songs.
"Another Country" came together last August, when a team including
the multi-instrumentalist and producer Pete Kennedy, Eric Weissberg
(of "Dueling Banjos" fame), John Sebastian (the Lovin' Spoonful) and
the Grammy-winning singer Nanci Griffith joined the effort. (So did
Ms. Doctorow's husband, Grover Gatewood, who created the graphic
design; and her daughters, Graylen, 13, and Annabel, 11, who perform
the final, 31-second instrumental track.)
Produced on her own Narrow Lane Records label, "Another Country" is
scheduled for release on Sunday. On Nov. 2, Ms. Doctorow will perform
songs from "Another Country" as a guest at a concert by the
singer-songwriter Terence Martin at the University Cafe, Stony Brook
University. On Dec. 13, she will appear at the Eclectic Cafe, a
monthly concert series at the Unitarian Universalist Society of South
Suffolk in Bay Shore.
For Ms. Doctorow, making "Another Country" has closed a circle whose
tracing began in her girlhood. "It feels like my musical destiny
wouldn't be complete if I hadn't," she said.