“The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey” Joni Mitchell

joni-mitchell-260Even Joni Mitchell had to find the right words to explain her 1979 album Mingus, a jazz collaboration with the great jazz bassist Charles Mingus, and an album whose greatest ambition was to be… well, “sketchy,” was what one Rolling Stone article described it as.  The songs sort of ramble laconically, melodies buried when present at all.  Mitchell later called the record a “work in progress,” proud of its structural looseness.  I think it’s hard not to reach a similar conclusion while listening to the record, but at the same time, all looseness has the ability to turn into form over time.  Lucinda Williams has an unreleased song called “Sundays” at the end of the special edition to Lucinda Williams and swears it’s unfinished – I don’t think the song could be more perfect.

“The Wolf That Lives in Lindsay” is a battle between furious plucks of a bass, playing at a different tune of the acoustic guitar that plays high and low at once, and the hand drums that beat, well, to their own drum, appropriately.  Mitchell, though past the age in which a listener could tell her voice was going, soars to old vocal heights – “Of the darkness in men’s minds/ what can you say/ that wasn’t marked by history,” she ponders and sort of tells a story of the men and their darknesses, wandering the streets, as well as of Lindsey, who finds her own darkness expressed within.  There is one more instrument combining here as well – howles of wolves, used as a composition that actually complements all the desultory elements.  “The Wolf” isn’t the sort of song that you can pull out of a jazz record and turn into a standard, but it is one that takes hold reflecting the uncertainty and mystery of the world and wanders gorgeously with its consciousness into the dark.  The guitar, the howls, the voice, the deep pluck of that bass awaken something – fear and sadness living simultaneously with sensuality.

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One Response to ““The Wolf That Lives In Lindsey” Joni Mitchell”

  1. AD Brown Says:

    I saw Lizz Wright perform this song with Jeff Haynes at a recent tribute to Joni in Toronto at Massey Hall. They breathed new life into this timeless number that was as haunting as it was brilliant. Joni watched from the wings, nodding with approval.

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