Somewhere near my home is a fellow Joni fan. I will allow myself a mild case of tunnel vision in assuming this refers to Joni Mitchell. Because to my knowledge, there is no other Joni that can be referred to as simply Joni.
I can’t remember my first exposures to Joni. I was too young. I remember buying The Hissing of Summer Lawns, though, on vinyl at a yard sale in my late teens. I remember it because I also bought a few Jethro Tull albums at the same time. I still have them all, including the version of Stand Up with the band popping out of the album when you open it.
My early exposure to Joni probably included Big Yellow Taxi and Help Me, because I grew up on 70s popular radio. Hissing was the first in-depth exposure to Joni I ever had, and it floored me. I couldn’t believe there were so many great songs I had never heard, all in one place. I listened many, many times. I still know the record by heart. I had never heard anything like The Jungle Line before. Edith and the Kingpin still gives me goosebumps today.
Not having a guide, I explored some of Joni’s other works as I happened upon them. Court and Spark and Ladies of the Canyon, while obviously great albums, never quite resonated with me the way that Hissing did, although I still smile when I hear Joni’s version of Woodstock, which I sometimes prefer to CSNY’s cover. Sometimes. Depends on my energy at the time, I guess.
Then I met Eve, who introduced me to Hejira and reintroduced me to Blue. Blue, which I had heard before and just not given a fair listen. Blue, which I probably just wasn’t mature enough to hear the first time. Blue, which has some of the greatest songs Joni ever wrote. How did I miss that? And Hejira, wow. Hejira had me at the very first listen. By the time I had found Hejira, I had already found Furry Lewis, so Furry Sings the Blues resonated powerfully. Coyote, Amelia, and Black Crow were just icing on the cake. Perfect gems of powerful, lyrical icing. I’d put Hejira on my 10-album desert island list any day.
So thanks, fellow JONI FAN, for making me think of Joni on the way home tonight. Even though I was listening to American Gods, I was thinking of you. Perhaps you too are an American God incarnate.