Music Monday Review: Rickie Lee Jones’ Balm in Gilead

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Rickie Lee Jones
Balm in Gilead
Fantasy Records

It took a couple spins of Rickie Lee Jonesnew album to make me a fan. There’s nothing groundbreaking or overtly powerful about Balm in Gilead, but much like Jones’ weathered voice, its unassuming grit snuck up on me.

For one thing, the album moves much more slowly than I was accustomed to. But while it initially felt foreign, the record eventually felt refreshing—as if it were recorded on a back porch rather than a slick studio.

This authenticity is also evident in Jones’ ability to move through genres without feeling forced. While she seems most at home with bluesy romps such as “Old Enough” and “Blue Ghazel,” her smoky voice also lends itself nicely to the countrified “Remember Me” and sultry “The Moon Is Made of Gold.” Her lyrics, too, feel more sincere than cunning: It’s a dark night to feed a stranger, when I don’t have enough to feed myself, she sings affectingly on “The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith.”

It’s these touches that ultimately make this new album intimate and real, a welcome respite from an overwrought music universe. By the time Jones croons You hurt me bad this time on one of the last and best tracks, “Bonfires,” she feels like an old, confiding friend—plaintive and genuinely heartbreaking.

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