Kate Wolf passed away December 10, 1986 after a long battle with leukemia. Her death brought a premature close to the career of a respected and influential folk artist. While her albums would only sell moderately, her early forays into the combining of folk and pop would look ahead to its fusion during the years after her passing.
Give Yourself To Love is a reissue of her 1983 live material. It was recorded at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall and features her long time accompanists Nina Gerber on guitar, mandolin, and harmonica plus Ford James on bass. Both provide the vocal harmonies. Also on board is a violin and cello player.
Folk music is always best heard live as it captures its passion and meaning in ways studio recordings cannot do. Here it places the focus squarely on her vocal interpretations of the material and she is above all a lyricist. She has a wonderful way with words and her clear voice is able to convey her own messages or interpret the songs of other artists.
Two cover songs stand out. She slows The Eagles “Peaceful Easy Feeling” down and changes the phrasing so it comes across as a totally different song. Sandy Denny’s old folk tune, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” is also changed. Judy Collins made this one of her early signature songs but here Wolf’s annunciation allows the words to form new pictures. This performance takes on additional meaning as she would pass away three years after it being recorded.
Her own compositions form the heart of this release. The title song is about the value of friendship and love. “Far-Off Shore” is a thinking person’s love song. “These Times We’re Living In” is a philosophical song about life’s passing yet there is contentment in its beauty.
She does have bite upon occasion. “Agent Orange” is a bitter song about the effects of The Vietnam War. She sings the song without any instrumental backing which makes it all the more chilling and sorrowful.
Give Yourself To Love is an excellent introduction to the material of Kate Wolf. Her approach is gentle yet it is mesmerizing at the same time. She is an important link in the chain of American folk artists. This release is essential to any lover of folk music.