We’re back to the idyllic-nostalgic with Joni Mitchell’s “Sisotowbell Lane.” Here the opening guitar chords are caressingly gentle, the mood at once lovely and dreamy. The song is from her first album Song to a Seagull, which is full of gems; but again, other Mitchell songs from that era like “Both Sides Now,” “A Case of You,” and “Big Yellow Taxi” won far more fame even though, for this listener, “Sisotowbell” surpasses all of them.
Although Mitchell herself said Sisotowbell was an invented name, the song seems to me to evoke a very real place:
Go to the city you’ll come back again
To wade through the grain
You always do…
Come back to the stars
Sweet well water and pickling jars
We’ll lend you the car
We always do
Yes sometimes we do…
It sounds a lot like Mitchell, while venturing out to Calgary and then Toronto in her late teens and early twenties, going back to visit her parents’ quaint, pastoral home in Saskatchewan. The song, in any case, is magic, pure as the prairie stars and the well water and drawn from the same essence.