It’s the warmest summer I can remember. It’s 1976 and I’m staying with my cousins in the beautiful Somerset town of Bath. The summer seemed endless and, although I have finished school, I really hadn’t a clue about what I would make of my life. But, and this is a big but, the only thing that filled my imagination was music. I’d discovered Joni Mitchell by this time but had only one album and was really ignorant of the early albums which had made her such an essential artist.
In these days, when in a strange house, you always gravitated towards the record player. Staying with the cousins was no different and I immediately found myself leafing through their albums to see what I could discover. It was then I found a copy of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, possibly, and easily arguably, the best album of all time. (I don’t think there is such a thing, but if there were, I’d say many would vote, Blue.) There was so much, mood, truth and raw emotion on these tracks that brought a timeless quality to the album. If I wasn’t sure what I was looking for then, for whatever reason, Blue gently but firmly explained to me that I’d found it nevertheless.
The timeless nature of the album is really in the simplicity of the production and the complexity of the songs. What a trick to pull off. A voice and a guitar or a piano or a dulcimer and sometimes, most times, very little else. I’m listening again now as it’s some time since I listened all the way through and I’m back in that front room in Forrester Road in Bath, but more importantly an entire lifetime has passed in between and the songs hit home as accurately and poignantly as they did all these years ago.
I thought of all of this the other day when one of our regular record promoters sent us through three songs from Joni’s forthcoming Live at Newport album. One of the songs is that timeless classic, A Case of You, and just when I thought I knew my favourite version to be KD Lang’s stunning reinterpretation from Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, Joni and her collaborator and prompter, Brandi Carlile, trump them all. On this week’s AC we’ll share a moment from the album which becomes available this Friday. I suggest you make a visit to your local record shop.
Talking of Brandi, we’ll have two other Brandi Carlile collaborations on this week’s episode of Another Country. Listen out for Brandi with Tanya Tucker and her namesake Brandy Clark. Sometime I do hope we will have Brandi Carlile on the show before too long to talk about the many records we have loved in which she’s had a key role.
There’s much more too on this week’s AC with great new things from my current fave, Nick Shoulders as well as Hailey Whitters and our old Nashville pal, Jeff Cohen. It’s also a very significant birthday for a man who loves country music almost as much as we do, Mick Jagger. We shall celebrate in appropriate style.
We’ll be on the wireless from eight this Tuesday and on BBC Sounds whenever you fancy from the same time. Do join me if you can.