River is the closest thing to a Christmas song Joni ever produced, choosing as she usually does to focus on dusty desert highways and the hot California sun. But here, she even begins River with the intro from Jingle Bells – which nicely dupes anyone that doesn’t know the song into thinking this will be a lovely Christmas cover.
But no, but no: after the initial Christmas scene-setting, Joni tells us she yearns for snow and wishes she had a river she could skate away on. You can take the girl out of Canada…
Turns out Joni is all alone at Christmas, having driven her lover away, and now she wants to escape her misery. While Joni isn’t talking about Christmas directly, escape is certainly something we’ve all yearned for at Christmas – so whether she meant to or not, River has become an anthem for anyone feeling disillusioned and lost during the festive season.
So, go ahead: let Joni break your heart a little this Christmas. You can always play Wizzard afterwards.