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Balm In Gilead

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Album Review

Captain Beefheart was known to playfully admonish fans shouting out requests at his shows by saying, "You know I'm gonna do exactly what I want." No one has documented Rickie Lee Jones saying the same thing, but in the course of a recording career that's just entered its fourth decade, she's made it clear that she shares the same philosophy, and she's bravely followed her muse wherever it chooses to go, rather than rehashing the sound and style of Rickie Lee Jones and Pirates, the acclaimed early recordings which made her a star. Jones certainly hasn't lost her love for the blues and jazz flavors that dominated her best-known work, but on 2009's Balm in Gilead (the title is drawn from a traditional spiritual), there's significantly less flash and swagger in her music; instead, these performances speak of an intimacy and warmth that befits the lyrics, which concern themselves with love, family, friendship, and the stuff that makes up everyday lives (something of a switch after the broadsides of The Evening of My Best Day and the spiritual mysteries of The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard). Jones duets with Vic Chesnutt on two numbers, the country-influenced weeper "Remember Me" and a spectral gospel variant, "His Jeweled Floor" (which also features Victoria Williams), and these two gloriously idiosyncratic talents bring out the best in one another, discovering a compelling mystery in their rural inflections that's an ideal match for the material. Ben Harper also lends his talents to this album, and his duet with Jones, "Old Enough," is a blues-infused tale of a busted romance that has a bit of the sass of "Chuck E.'s in Love," but half a lifetime's added depth and subtle detail. Jones opens the set with "Wild Girl," a song written for her daughter, and it's one of the most heartfelt and simply affecting moments on this album, along with "The Moon Is Made of Gold," a sweetly swinging lullaby that was written by her father when she was just a girl. And if songs like "Bonfires," "Eucalyptus Trail," "The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith," and "Bayless St." don't lend themselves to simple categorization, they're all quietly beautiful and filled with a gentle passion that never sounds anything less than fearlessly honest. Rickie Lee Jones sounds less like a Hipster Chick and more like an Earth Mother whose experience has brought her plenty of wisdom on Balm in Gilead, and that's clearly just the way she wants it; Jones' faith in her own creative judgment is well-founded, and this is a work whose modest scale belies its emotional strength.

Customer Reviews

Balm in Gilead

This is Rickie Lee Jones' masterpiece. Most of the songs on this album have been incubating for thirty years, and it has been worth the wait. From the snappy opening track written for her daughter, 'Wild Girl', to the jazz inspired 'The Moon is Made of Gold' written by her father so many years ago, to the hauntingly gorgeous spiritual 'His Jewelled Floor'... all of the songs work together and sit as a testament to the songwriting craft of their creator. Rickie Lee Jones has worked in so many musical styles throughout her career, and this album is, for the most part, a return to her roots. Although her experimentation on previous albums in trip hop and rock and roll have been appreciated, she shines the brightest when her focus is on the jazz/blues/pop/country of this album and many of her others (think of her self-titled grammy winning debut; Pirates; Magazine; Pop Pop; Girl at Her Volcano; Evening of My Best Day and Traffic from Paradise. The one country song on this album, Remember Me, is BEAUTIFUL. I would love to see Rickie experiment more deeply in country.

A beautiful album!!!

Un bel album

Depuis ses débuts j'ai toujours acheté tout ses albums, j'aime beaucoup cette artiste.
Et sur chaque album il y a d'agréable découverte, elle explore son talent.
Ce nouvel album m'a ravis pas sa simplicité, sa douceur. Elle a encore de la créativité.

Just Lovely

I just adore this record. It is so beautiful and heartfelt and brings me out of myself into a world of love and beauty.


Born: November 08, 1954 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

From her 1979 debut onward, Rickie Lee Jones has proved to be an original, mixing beatnik-based poetic sensibilities with R&B, jazz, folk, and pop. Most of her commercial success came at the outset of her career, but a restless creative spirit -- combined with a stubborn refusal to fit comfortably into any one musical niche -- sealed her ultimate destiny as that of a highly regarded cult heroine. Jones was born on November 8, 1954, in Chicago, but the volatile relationship between her mother and...
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