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Northhampton Review from Hartford Courant

Share your feelings about a Rickie concert.

Northhampton Review from Hartford Courant

Postby wildblue » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:22 pm,0,4567321.story


Rickie Lee Jones Cool As Ever At Iron Horse


Special to The Courant

October 28, 2009

It was 30 years ago that Rickie Lee Jones was crowned "the Duchess of Coolsville" on the strength of her Grammy-winning debut album that featured her slurry vocals and jazzy chronicles of street life. That album, which spawned the hit single "Chuck E's in Love," was a huge commercial success, a success that the idiosyncratic Jones never has matched.

While her record sales may have dwindled over the years, Jones has continued to write challenging music that pushes the boundaries of what is popular. This adventurous spirit was clearly evident Monday night as Jones played a rare club date at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass.

Jones and her four-piece band were a tight fit on the tiny stage. As she chatted amicably with the crowd, whom she called "my extended family," it was clear she enjoyed the intimacy of the small room. On tour in support of her soon-to-be-released 12th album, "Balm in Gilead," Jones, who has been known to be an erratic performer in the past, was in top form.

Playing acoustic guitar, she led the band down a musical road that turned in unexpected directions as she experimented with shifting rhythmic dynamics, textures and various styles. Elements of rock, soul and jazz frequently would meld into one another, sometimes within the same song. Jones played a mix of new and old material, even tossing in the occasional odd choice like "Lap Dog."

Throughout her lengthy set, Jones brought to mind what a bold, uncompromising musician she is. One of the new songs, "Remember Me," had her singing in a country twang alongside Joel Guzman's punchy accordion. In the experimental "Scary Chinese Movie," Jones pushed her voice to the edge, at times seeming to channel Yoko Ono.

Jones, at 54, still has a voice that can be breathily childlike, and she knows how to use its elasticity to great emotional effect, in a soft hush on "Rodeo Girl" or reaching for a powerhouse high note on "Nobody Knows My Name."

She took to the piano and let her voice swoon against the surge of Rob Wasserman's bass and Guzman's organ on a reworked version of "Living it Up." As the band settled into a heated groove, Jones gleefully shouted, "Don't even think about stopping!"

Toward the end of her set, she focused on new material, which she said were songs "she has been writing for the past 20 years." The crowd was won over immediately by the finger-snapping introduction to "Wild Girl," an ode to Jones' daughter, and was left in a stunned silence by the raw emotion of "Bonfires," arguably the most powerful song Jones ever has written.

It was a somber way to end a two-hour set, but it didn't stop the crowd from demanding an encore. Jones strapped on an electric guitar and delved into two of the more spiritual songs from the new album. She introduced the bluesy "Blue Ghazel" by explaining that a ghazel is a love poem to God, and she closed with the meditative hymn "His Jeweled Floor," which she dedicated "for our dying parents."

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
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