Jazz pianist and composer Patricia Barber accomplishes two things simultaneously on this digital download single: first she returns to covering pop standards with this deeply moving cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," and secondly, she delivers her first recorded foray into the holiday season, though this sad, blue song might seem an unlikely choice. Despite its melancholy, this is a wise choice as it addresses the fact that the holiday season is a time when many reflect on losses, reverie, and loneliness as opposed to gratitude and joy. Barber, appearing with only her piano as accompaniment, delves deeply into Mitchell's lyric, allowing its sparse, stark poetry to arise even as her instrument underscores and highlights the ends of her sung lines, tracing out the jazz roots in the melody. While Barber is hardly the first jazz artist to cover Mitchell, she would no doubt create a compelling album of the latter's songs should she ever choose to do so.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek