Like any memorable album, there was plenty to keep me coming back to Blue beyond my first listen. Mitchell's lyrics aren't just poetic; they're full of tiny details that seem mundane at first but carry a lot of emotional weight. "But when he's gone / Me and them lonesome blues collide / The bed's too big / The frying pan's too wide," she sings in "My Old Man," revealing the kind of small details noticed only when someone is finally gone.
Then there's that voice — a ringing, emotive and unequaled sound that evokes the complicated emotions behind the lyrics, with the slightest quiver or subtle change in inflection.
These songs are universal. Acoustic guitar, piano and a great voice never go out of style, and aside from referring to the Mermaid Café and calling her boyfriend a "mean old daddy," Mitchell sings about love in a way that would be relevant in any time period.
Perhaps that's why "California" is still one of the most personally resonant songs I've ever heard. Maybe it's because I really did go to a party down a red dirt road while studying abroad in Spain, but more likely it's because, like many people my age, I've been living away from home on and off for several years now. When Mitchell sings about the news back home being full of war and unrest, it's not hard to connect the bleakness of that time period to today. A generation of young people is still dealing with war and political discontent, feeling restless and struggling to find work. In our uncertainty, many of us find ourselves far from home, moving to different cities to find work or traveling overseas to teach English. Those feelings of loneliness and longing to be home resonate as much now as they did for Joni Mitchell 40 years ago.