What can be said about Joni Mitchell that hasn’t already been universally agreed upon? To anyone with enough gull to consider themselves a songwriter, she is a light in the dark — a beacon for the disillusioned, heartsick and hopeful. Her lyrics cut to the marrow and can be dissected and pieced back together in a hundred different ways, with a hundred different interpretations. Evocative and relatable to anybody struggling through the human condition. For Joni, each song seamlessly straddles the line between folk tradition, jazz expressionism, and pop simplicity.
I recall driving through the night on tour with our band Altameda, somewhere between Utah and Colorado. Everybody else in the van was asleep, and I was fiddling with the dial on the radio, trying to find a frequency. Finally, through the speakers, I could hear the gravel-soaked voice of Tom Rush come into clarity. Admittedly, at the time, I was not acquainted with his work, nor was I overly taught with the song he was performing.
The lyrics were revealing: “And the seasons, they go round and round / Painted ponies go up and down, we’re captive on the carousel of time, we can’t return, we can only look behind at where we came / and go round and round, in the circle game” drifted from the speakers, and landed heavily on my heart. It was a simple yet transcendental reckoning of time.
As I catapulted us down the dark highway and away from the past, a feeling of catharsis overtook me. Shortly after, I pulled us over to the nearest gas station and immediately researched the song. I quickly realized that it was written by Joni Mitchell — “The Circle Game.” It struck me that, at the time she wrote that song, she was in her early twenties. Yet, it encapsulated so much wisdom and wonderment, you would think it was written by an old ghost, looking back on the world it had left behind.
Joni’s timeless classic album Blue has been sewn into the seeds of contemporary music and is widely acclaimed as a tour de force of folk music. We chose to perform a rendition of the song “California,” which I think represents a feeling most touring musicians can relate to — that feeling of being far away yet reminiscing about your scene (and your “circle”) back home. We’re honoured to be a part of this celebration of such an influential and irreplaceable staple of music and songwriting. And we hope that you enjoy our cover. Words by Troy Snaterse.