Whenever I listen to “Little Green,” I forget that it’s only guitar and voice. I have a theory that there is a shadow band; an invisible arrangement that circles the song. They enter at “Call her Green,” swirling underneath Joni as her voice propels upwards. They swell on the minor two-chord, withholding harmonic resolution in Joni’s familiar aching, beautiful way. Listen again. Can you hear the silhouettes of flute, strings and light brushes?
The lyrics work similarly. Just like the shadow band, Joni’s retelling of her daughter’s adoption is conjured through implication and indirect ways. Green is her daughter and the anchoring metaphor of newness, inexperience, jealousy, and natural phenomena that entangles her relationships. Yet, the eponymous little green is already absent at the song’s conception. The song is written in the aftermath. The absence is doubled lyrically and musically, and all that remains is this private space of remembrance we enter.