Neko Case — "Maybe Sparrow" (2006)
Fellow Canadian Neko Case has relentlessly explored her own art, becoming a darling of the critics but not her banker. Case in point: "Maybe Sparrow," where the songbird uses birdsong as a metaphor for wild things that can't be tamed. It's a countryish ballad featuring mandolin, fiddle and tenor guitar (the latter has only four strings), but the singer's rough vocals are closer to those of a blues belter — or a latter-day Joni Mitchell.
Feist — "My Moon My Man" (2007)
Leslie Feist's insanely catchy ditty "1234" was everywhere for a few months in 2007, from iPod ads to Sesame Street. But the song that best captures her Mitchellesque chops is "My Moon My Man": Her vocals flit over the music, unpredictably but unerringly landing on the perfect note every time.
Kathleen Edwards — "Empty Threat" (2012)
Another Canadian singer-songwriter, Edwards can find beauty in bleakness. In "Empty Threat," for example, she makes the possible death of a relationship feel impossibly rejuvenating — precisely the type of startling juxtaposition that Joni mastered four decades earlier. Like Mitchell, Edwards has moved away from her initial genre (in her case, alternative country rock) into something more moody and atmospheric, but every bit as melodic. Through it all, she has stayed true to her own distinctive voice — I guess you could say she's covered both sides now.
Also of interest: 10 fun songs from the '70s.