The Hunt For New Music: Rickie Lee Jones

“Old Enough”, by Rickie Lee Jones. Balm in Gilead
“Maybe it’s that I took care of you too many times. And you grew weaker for a kindness. And Sometimes kindness from a friend can break ‘em down..”
–from “Old Enough” by Rickie Lee Jones.
The last time you probably heard Rickie Lee Jones was when her hit song, “Chuck E’s In Love” was a big hit, rocking the radio dials in heavy rotation. That was 1979. It might be time to tune in again. “Old Enough”, a song that reflects the dichotomy of raising children (you can only advise them to do the right thing and hope they won’t do the wrong one) from her 2009 Balm in Gilead CD is a pretty terrific piece of music on every level. From the shock-blunt chord opening, her voice takes you down a hall of melancholy remembrances with first her vocal solo and then a street choir refrain to bring the melody back home. The entire song is framed with aggressive restraint—with backing recorded by musicians who know how to play, when to push it out and when to pull it back. It’s got a beautiful, lyrical bridge and some very tight guitar, bass, organ, and drum work. Is “Old Enough” a hymn to modern life, family and child, distance and closure? Yes, all that and more and what’s the surprise, coming from Rickie Lee.
 
Her life has been biopic material. Grew up on the plains of Oklahoma, where imagination was the ticket out of town, despite her AAU swimming talents. Moved to California, through the music scene in Venice, finally into town in Hollywood where friends and fellow musicians made the right introductions and created the right collaborations. Dr. John noticed her. Lowell George, of Little Feat, recorded one of her first songs, “Easy Money” and then a couple of very hot producers, Lenny Woronker (look on just about any Warner Brothers album from that period and Lenny was listed as producer) and Tomy LaPuma, another hot producer, both pursued her. Jones got a five record deal from Warner and then………she met Tom Waits. It was one of those relationships—too hot to last, too cool to remain true—but the influences stayed long after the relationship faded away.
 
Emotionally and musically restless, Rickie Lee moved. To New York.  Back to San Francisco. Then to France. Always eccentric, in both musical tastes and fashion, Jones has never been afraid to pursue new musical paths even if the cost was commercial success. Nominated early in her career for Five Grammies, she has fearless artistic instincts and the confidence to toss what worked last out the door in exchange for what she wants to do next. The Beatles had the same instincts. Her second CD Pirates is considered one of the Must-Listen-to Top 100 CDs of all time; her artistic presence is real and her vision has longevity, even though some may find some of her music challenging. If you haven’t heard Rickie Lee Jones lately, start with “Old Enough” and then, if that sounds right to you, start working your way through her catalog. It’ll be an enjoyable trip.
 
 

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