Friday, December 04, 2009

Rickie Lee Jones, "Balm in Gilead" (Review)

Rickie Lee Jones first enchanted me way back in the summer of 1979, when "Chuck E.'s in Love," the bouncy biggest single from her Top 3 debut album, was all over pop radio.

I distinctly remember hearing the tune - fresh, jazzy folk-pop, topped by her inimitable voice - blasting from the portable radio in the kitchen at Jimbo's Pit Bar B-Q on Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland. I worked at the restaurant for a while during the summer between high school and my freshman year at UF.

Jones' latest CD is a real charmer. Click here to read my review, as published in Las Vegas City Life. Or read the full text, below.

Rickie Lee Jones
Balm in Gilead

Thirty years after her breakthrough, as a decidedly bohemian L.A. singer with a knack for fusing pop, folk and jazz, Rickie Lee Jones still celebrates life as a free spirit, forever young. Except that the "Wild Girl" Jones sings about on the song of the same name is her daughter, turning 21. Mom, 55 and recalling regrets, has advice: "Go out and get some glory."

Glory, not to mention chance taking, are in short supply on Balm in Gilead, Jones' 13th album. True to its title, though, something uniquely soothing -- spiritual, even -- enlivens these 10 tracks. The sonic textures, from the bowed bass and oozing organ of "His Jeweled Floor" to the interlocking guitars, violin, mandolin and Dobro of "Bayless St.," are as gorgeous as any ever created by Jones.

Gospel-blues undergirds "Old Enough," with Ben Harper and R&B horns, and Jones agilely slips into Nashville textures on the waltz-time "Remember Me," with Vic Chesnutt's harmony vocals and Alison Krauss's fiddle work. Bill Frisell's air-hanging guitar adorns the mournful "Eucalyptus Trail." And Jones as jazzy chanteuse takes center stage on "The Moon is Made of Gold," a jaunty lullaby written for her by her father, Richard Loris Jones.

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