Rickie Lee Jones: Balm in Gilead (Universal)

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Rickie Lee Jones: His Jeweled Floor
Rickie Lee Jones: Balm in Gilead (Universal)

Ms Jones has slipped so far down the totem pole of public attention in the past decade that her last album -- the ambitious Sermon on Exposition Boulevard of 2007 in which she meditated on Jesus and other things -- went straight past most.

Jones works her own territory: one part jazz, a nod to pop, sometimes soulful or almost spoken word, and that distinctive voice which you either love or find irritating.

It doesn’t makes her an easy proposition, but she is always worth persisting with. This album typically rewards in small doses, but is a real grower.

She addresses the concerns of her age and generation -- she’s 54, a solo mother and the opener Wild Girl is to her 21 year old daughter -- and musically crosses a lot of genres: with Alison Krauss on violin she goes pure country balladry for Remember Me about a relationship in tatters; Ben Harper duets on the soulful Old Enough which looks at a similar theme; she covers a song her dad wrote in the mid 50s (The Moon is Made of Gold) which is acoustic loveliness; Vic Chestnutt and Victoria Williams also guest in the hymnal His Jewelled Floor.

Eucalyptus Trail is a dull dirge despite guitarist Bill Frisell‘s tonal colours (if you’re ho-hum about her you’ll hate this li’l girl voice), The Blue Ghazel is an eerie instrumental, and Bonfires is spare ballad about hurt and betrayal and moving on. 

As always with Jones, a slightly mixed bag where the best far outweighs the rest.

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Jos - Nov 24, 2009

Wow, this is nice, I've been a keen fan of her music and her voice for ever.

Thought I caught a glimpse of you amongst all the grey hair and shiny pates at the Ry Cooder concert. Loved your review of it, I too thought it was sublime! It looked as though he was enjoying himself immensely, I've seen a youtube clip of the same concert from Tokyo and it seemed flat in comparison. That Juliette Commagere was pretty hot!

katusbratus - Nov 30, 2009

Thanks for that review Graham. I can run screaming from her voice if not in the right mood however, she's like a good wine is our Rickie. Serendipitously I've been revisiting "Pirates" in the last couple of weeks as I've only got a cassette player in my car. I just love the narrative tale/song cycle element to that album with "Bird" and his friends. I thought she'd gone into the ether but NO! I'm looking forward to acquainting myself with "Balm"


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