A Case of You, Joni Mitchell on a Fender Tele
This month takes me back to high-school, when I used to play accompaniment as my girl friend would sing Joni Mitchell songs. Here I try to handle both chores, accompanying myself on a Telecaster as I try to sing this beautiful song off the amazing album Blue. The amplifier you see is my old 60's era Fender Showman in its new cabinet (dig the coco bolo front panel) paired with a new, open back speaker cabinet loaded with a 15" Legend guitar speaker by Eminence crossed over at 3 kHz and paired with a JBL horn.
About the Song
I have wanted to cover this song forever, but never really felt I could pull the vocal off. My high-school sweetheart set a pretty high bar. She had an amazing voice, loved this music, and could sing this song so that you forgot, at least for the moment, the original version and just focused on her and the song. And that's saying something, since the original version is not something you easily forget. Great Googly Moogly what a performance! Why do I pick iconic songs to cover that every one already knows and loves? Kinda dumb huh?
In recent years I heard John Doe cover this song on an album, and though I disagreed with some of his guitar choices, I felt he did a very credible job, and also felt empowered to finally give it a go myself, since it seemed a male voice might not sound completely ridiculous. It's a great song, dammit, and a great song can be played by anyone and still sound great. The song improves the performer, so to speak. Of course, John Doe has a distinctive voice. I do not. I struggled mightily picking a key, moving the capo around the guitar neck, creeping ever higher. I thought about singing it as if I was drunk, since the original key lays kind of low for me, and when I sing it there I tend to slip into a sort of Tom Waits the Piano has been drinking kind of voice that my daughters find amusing. I do think there is a good way to do that, but I don't play this stuff out, so I don't get to work the kinks out in front of an audience to see what works and what doesn't. I opted to pick a key where the high notes would sit well for me, and I could hit the low notes fairly easily. I wish I had a better voice, but I like singing, and I like singing this song, so there it is. Hopefully, it isn't too much of an affront to people's sensibilities. It is not as if I don't know that Joni's version is definitive. I'm not seeking to improve on the original. I'm merely looking for my way of approaching it. I watched an interview with Joni and from her comments about people covering her songs I think she would be very cool with that. She was a folky. Music for the people. She WANTS people to find themselves in her words. Cool.
About the gear
I wish you could hear how darned amazing that guitar sounds through that amp and speaker cabinet. And you should see and touch the cabinets. I had so much fun making them with Doug. I really enjoy doing the finish work. Maybe breathing Tongue Oil makes me loopy, but it is so incredibly satisfying to make something and to carefully sand and finish and polish until it is a thing of beauty that you have brought into the world. The real world is so much nicer than the virtual in this regard. Tactile, olfactory, auditory, there is so much to experience. Anyway, a Fender guitar wants a Fender amp like a flower wants the sun. We still haven't really got the vibrato circuit fully functioning, but you can hear it warbling lightly here, and it sounds sweet. And despite being capo'd way up the neck, there is still plenty of bottom to the sound if you aren't listening on a laptop. The beauty of playing through a clean amp into a 15" speaker is you get the full dynamic range of the instrument. The jazz guitars sound nice enough through it as well, but there really does seem to be something particularly mind blowing about pairing Fender with Fender.