Rickie Lee Jones: My First Pop Crush and Her New CD

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“’Whatever it is Christ said doesn’t get a fair shake,’ Rickie Lee Jones said. On a rainy December day, she was sniffling and coughing, fighting a bad cold and losing.”

Thus begins an New York Times article of Rickie Lee Jones that focuses on her new album The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, which was recently released by Jones’ new label:  New West Records.  In the words of the interviewee, “The project is an attempt to explore the words and ideas of Jesus in a contemporary context.”   To read the full article, click here.

Now I have been a Rickie Lee Jones fan since she first appeared on the national music scene in 1979.  One listen to the cool guitar riff at the beginning of “Chuckie’s In Love,” made me immediately head to the Record Store to discover who this woman was.  You see, to my my college-aged mind, she was so cool, and I was so not cool.  I have stayed with Rickie Lee all these years.  I have most of her albums/cds.  Even when Jones moved away from her own material and began to sing standards, I remained faithful to her. But with the release of her last two original albums, Jones has moved back to recording her own material, and I couldn’t be happier.  Sermon is a very good album, in which Jones tries to come to grips with the words and teachings of Jesus.  As the article in the New York Times states:

Her approach is varied, sometimes obscure. The song “Where I Like It Best” is an attempt to interpret the Lord’s Prayer “in a new way, in my own language, how it would happen now.” For “Falling Up,” Ms. Jones sings from the perspective of a villager in the crowd during the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s unlikely territory for a woman who shot to fame in 1979 as a beret-topped inheritor of the Beat tradition — the “Duchess of Coolsville,” as she titled a 2005 anthology. Ms. Jones, 52, is also active in liberal politics, maintaining an issues-oriented Web site, furnitureforthepeople.com, in addition to her own site, rickieleejones.com. But she says her beliefs are precisely what fueled “Exposition Boulevard.”

For me, Where I Like It Best is the emotional center of the cd and my favorite track.  Some of the lyrics of this song are as follows:

I wanted to pray
I wanted to let you go on your way . . .
I wanted to know why they laid there
dying in the streets
next to the restaurant
where people were eating and yes
I wanted to pray

“How do you pray in a world like this?

when you pray
pray alone by yourself
in the secret room of your heart

but I say, God, but I say this
you are the prayer
your eyes are the prayer
your hand on your cheek
you are the prayer
those words you want to speak
they are the prayer
that dance you make
when you’re by yourself
just before your mother calls you on the phone
you are the prayer

all you gotta do is say hey hey
I’m down here too, I’m down here too
I’m down here too

and I hear you in the trees
and I hear you
and I’m near you
I wonder why there’s so much suffering?

I want to say thank you, thank you
thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you
I wanted to say thank you, thank you
I wanted to say
I wanted to say
you are where I like it best
you are where I like it best
you are where I like it best

That’s the Lords’ prayer
“You are where I want to be”
So, amen, just amen
Amen, all by myself, amen, amen

This is provocative stuff, and when Jones’ voice cracks as she sings “I’m down here, too; I’m down here, too; I’m down here, too,” we know that it is also deeply personal.

lpress-arctic

 

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