There are many pre-pandemic concert moments that now have a mystical quality to them. Neil Young reviving “On the Beach” for the first time in 16 years. Phoebe Bridgers performing “Garden Song” just weeks before lockdown. And Lana Del Rey recruiting Weyes Blood and Zella Day for a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” in the fall of 2019, onstage in — you guessed it — Los Angeles.
On Friday, Del Rey released her new album Chemtrails Over the Country Club, with the “For Free” cover as the final track. It appropriately follows “Dance Till We Die,” where she name checks Mitchell among several female icons: “I’m coverin’ Joni and I’m dancin’ with Joan/Stevie is callin’ on the telephone.” (Side note: Do Lana and Stevie text?)
Zella Day kicks off the first verse of “For Free” with Del Rey taking the reigns on the second. Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering is no stranger to Mitchell covers — check out her version of “River” or “Woodstock,” where she prefaces the latter with “I just wanted to say I wouldn’t exist without Joni Mitchell” — and it shows in the third verse, where her velvety vocals drive the song home.
The trio deliver the right amount of 21st century Laurel Canyon grandeur, even if Mitchell wrote the track after witnessing a New York City clarinet player in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Del Rey may lean into Americana on Chemtrails Over the Country Club, but “For Free” is a fitting finale to the album, proving she’s first and foremost a Lady of the Canyon.