Music Of The Month: July 2023

Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell At Newport

Well folks, due to prepping for, attending, and catching up after the Newport Folk Festival, it took me longer than normal to listen through the month’s new releases. So now that we’re halfway through August, I’m finally getting around to posting the July episode of my little monthly reviews.

Cut Worms released a new self-titled album I enjoyed. Straight-ahead pop-y tunes delivered in comfortable arrangements, it’s an easy listen for a summer afternoon. Similarly, Colter Wall’s new record, Little Songs, retains his signature lived-in vibe throughout. As I’ve said before about Charley Crockett, I’m not 100% sure I can distinguish one Colter Wall album from another, but I really do love his sound when I’m listening to it. Also on point in the relaxed listening category is Dream Box, the latest from guitarist Pat Metheny. Sorted from a forgotten folder Metheny found on his computer while on the road last year, these are ultra-stripped-down versions of standards, covers, and original compositions played on two guitars: Metheny with Metheny, adding overdubs to the tracks in the found files.

July also brought us Elizabeth Moen’s new release, For Arthur. This five-song EP is a tribute to Arthur Russell, a musical prodigy, cellist, pianist, hippie, and spiritual seeker who passed away in 1992. Russell’s music came across my radar via The Tweedy Show, the nightly Instagram show put on by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his family during the pandemic shutdown, as they often covered Russell’s songs. Moen’s record shows these songs in a new light, without losing any of the very personal nature of the originals.

Speaking earlier of the Newport Folk Festival, however, this month’s pick absolutely has to be Joni Mitchell At Newport. I’ve been fortunate to experience an awful lot of indescribably transcendental musical moments in my life, many of them at Newport Folk, but very few even remotely compare to the moment Mitchell walked on stage in 2022. Fifty-three years after her last Newport Folk appearance, 22 years after her last public concert, and 7 years after having been stricken with a brain aneurysm, a live performance from Joni Mitchell seemed, at best, entirely unlikely. And yet that’s exactly what happened. The experience was so profoundly moving that Suzy and I struggle to talk about it to each other even today.

Now, I’m not going to claim that this album will convey that same experience to you. I can guarantee it won’t. In fact, I’ll admit that I will almost certainly listen to all the other records I listed above more often than I listen to this one; Joni Mitchell At Newport is a good record, not a great one. But it’s my pick of the month because it is the best document available of one of the best moments of my life, plain and simple.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

(click to go to artist’s website)