IN THE TIME OF JONI

I'm playing my first venue show since early March 2020. I'm only doing this because of Joni. 

Let me explain. I imagine when Shakespeare was alive someone was sure to think, “I live in the time of Shakespeare.” I find myself thinking this about Joni. The thought first came to me when I heard her at the Luminato Festival in Toronto back in 2013 for her 70th birthday. She sat on the couch to one side of the stage for the whole concert and at the end recited a song that turned into singing after leading us to believe she had retired. The crowd erupted. I was overwhelmed because out of her entire formidable catalog she had chosen the only song of hers that I had recently learned: Furry Sings the Blues. Her phrasing is out of this world. What a thrill to live in the time of Joni!

I have a bootleg of the concert on my now defunct blog, Is it Good?

Luminato Festival review on Is It Good?

I was 16 when I first heard her, a record playing in the background of a phone call. I asked who this was and when I hung up I drove my light blue Buick LeSabre straight to the record store at the Concord Mall. I picked an album with cover art that I liked (this is also how I pick wine, by the way). It was Court and Spark.

I popped the cassette into the car stereo, and as I drove out of the parking lot and over the railroad tracks towards home, the first piano sounds rang out. In that pristine, rare space my life changed. A world of confessional writing from the first measures and through every passing decade was laid out before me. 

I am one of hundreds of songwriters who have traveled the road she created and I can honestly say I don't see how I'd be here without it. What I had yet to learn is that I would also be traveling similar chronic health roads. But that's another story. So, in every way Joni has been a guide and I'm grateful.

The wheels they go round and round…

It's a decade later now and Joni turns 80, recovering from fresh health challenges and still singing! Pittsburgh is throwing a party for her at the newly renovated Original Pittsburgh Winery. I am honored to be invited to sing, and although I initially turned it down because my voice is out of condition, I realized if there was ever any moment when I should try it was now and it was for this artist and it was in this town. 

Life gives us chances when we think it's only a setting sun. At some point you have fall into the evening void and keep declaring that living wins. The producer and I agreed I'll do an abbreviated 2-song set to open the concert. One of those will be Night Ride Home. I am around the same age that she was when she wrote this song and I love how settled and direct and easy-feeling it is as compared to other eras of her work.

If you're in Pittsburgh maybe I'll see you there, celebrating long lives and new chances and good songs and being together. 

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