Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Weight - Birthday Countdown: 12 Days

It snowed quite a bit of the day here in DC. It wasn't a blizzard by any means, but it was steady enough that one could have the feeling that they were inside of a snow globe for a short while. I always say that it's not a real winter unless we have a serious snowfall, with school closings, chained tires, and general mass hysteria. Today wasn't that day, so I'm still holding out hope for "the big one" this season. But, I did get to leave work before Noon today, with my more skittish co-workers serving as lead blockers on my way out the front door. It only takes one or two others who fear that the snowfall will result in a Cloverfield-like scenario of chaos and destruction to make it acceptable for the rest of us to claim to want to "beat the traffic" as well. Such is life in the district.

So what does this have to do with today's Countdown post? Not much. But I was reviewing my list of candidates, trying to decide which gem to unleash, and thinking of the winter weather allowed me to settle on my pick. I'm going with Travis' cover of Joni Mitchell's "River". With its imagery of Christmas trees and holiday decorations, alongside the 'Jingle Bells' teases throughout, it rose to the top for me. Ironically, the song is really about Joni's longing for a real winter scene of her own (most likely in her native Canada) as she sings " Oh I wish I had a river / I could skate away on / But it don't snow here / It stays pretty green."

"River" appears on her most popular/critically acclaimed album 'Blue,' which was written in 1971 after her breakup with Englishman and fellow musician Graham Nash. At the time, she was living in famed Laurel Canyon alongside the members of CSNY, Jackson Browne (whom Joni would also have a relationship with), James Taylor (whom Joni would also have a relationship with), The Mamas and The Papas, and many others. Reading along to the words of "River" you can easily feel the emotion of a singer longing to escape from California and it's "crazy scene" after the breakup of her relationship.

I've always liked Travis, though they've fallen off of my radar like they have for so many others, as their popularity has certainly diminished over time. But you do have to give them credit, as they were one of the biggest bands in Europe in the late 90s, certainly influencing many UK bands like megastars Coldplay. Just last year, Chris Martin called Travis "the band that invented my band [Coldplay] and lots of others."

I saw Travis put on a great show at the 9:30 Club in October 2001 and listening to them will always remind me of that time in my life, and the many British bands that I followed after venturing away from the jam band world during the infamous Phish hiatus.

Please enjoy Travis' take on this Joni Mitchell classic:

Travis - River (Joni Mitchell cover)


Read PopMatters' review of Herbie Hancocks recent release, a jazz tribute to Joni Mitchell titled, "River: The Joni Letters." The reviewer calls it "Hancock’s most beautiful and daring album since the 1970s."

Listen to the full Travis concert from the 9:30 Club in DC, taped on 7/16/2007 and presented by NPR's 'All Things Considered'.

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