For the Roses

August 19, 2011

When you list the iconic folk singers of the '60s and '70s, a lot of males pop up - men like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Yet there is one female singer-songwriter that is easily mentioned in the same breath - Joni Mitchell. Music was intensely personal in Mitchell's life. Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada, in 1943, she was struck with polio at age nine. It was during her recovery that she discovered herself as a performer, singing for other patients. She taught herself to play guitar using Pete Seeger's books, and from then on, through college, became a staple of Alberta's music scene. She married folksinger Chuck Mitchell and adopted the moniker Joni Mitchell. After she moved with Chuck to Detroit, Michigan, they split up, but she remained in the city, focusing on her music and gaining local recognition. It was there that David Crosby (of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) offered to produce her debut record. From there she took off, writing songs for the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Fairport Convention, and Judy Collins among many others.

Mitchell was never afraid to take chances with her career by pursuing new artistic directions, and her third full-length album, For the Roses, shows a remarkable shift from her previous sound. Straying away from more straightforward folk, and with the help of rock-jazz performer Tom Scott, she created a solid pop record. The title track is a straight-up folk tune, with her angelic voice soaring over complex folk-guitar pickings. It's soothing despite being slightly angular.

The album contains her radio hit "You Turn Me On I'm a Radio," which is a country-tinged ballad that harkens Dylan, and features Graham Nash on harmonica alongside lush, sweet backing vocals supporting her unmistakable birdlike chirping. She moves into nostalgic folk-pop territory on the ballady "Woman of Heart and Mind," which is at once heartwarming in its storytelling and easily conversational. Her golden voice invokes femininity of all sorts as she croons, "You think I'm like your mother / Or another lover or your sister / Or the queen of your dreams / Or just another silly girl / When love makes a fool of me." She becomes wholly relatable, both in her frustration and in her relatability, and in her own way she becomes all these things.

Printed from the official Joni Mitchell website. Permanent link:

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