Balm in Gilead
Performer: Rickie Lee Jones
Artist: Ben Harper; Alison Krauss; Vic Chesnutt; Victoria Williams; Chris Joyner
Engineer: Chris Testa; Jason Wormer; David Kalish; Jeff Halbert; John Keane; Mike Poole; Sheldon Gomberg; Jesse Honig...
Producer: David Kalish; Rickie Lee Jones; Sheldon Gomberg...
Distributor: Universal Distribution
Notes: Lyricist: Rickie Lee Jones. Personnel: Danny Frankel (tambourine, percussion). Audio Mixer: Rob Schnapf. Photographer: Rickie Lee Jones. 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 third 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 RICCKIE 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, 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. 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 effecting 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.
Q (Magazine) (p.126) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Rickie Lee Jones still sounds utterly unique....A very classy showcase." Paste (magazine) - "BALM IN GILEAD plies a folksy yet soulful jazz-country sound that showcases both her inimitable voice -- with its playful meter and peculiar grain -- and her studio prowess..." Record Collector (magazine) (p.83) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]hough the musical approach is a return to the country, soul and jazz of the records that established Jones as one of the finest voices of her times, it's brimming with ideas and incident." Uncut (magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's a stunning testament to the vitality of her vagabond muse."
From her 1979 debut onward, Rickie Lee Jones has showed her originality, mixing beatnik-based poetic sensibilities with R&B, jazz, folk, and pop. While her records have met varying degrees of commercial success, she can be fearlessly inventive, and she moved through the '90s embracing hip-hop and studio experimentation.
Also Appears On:
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Beatles (The) Edwards, Cliff Fitzgerald, Ella Gaye, Marvin Hicks, Dan Holiday, Billie King, Carole Little Feat Mitchell, Joni Newman, Randy Nyro, Laura Rolling Stones (The) Simone, Nina Steely Dan Traffic Vaughan, Sarah Waits, Tom
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