Two-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, who has been dubbed the Duchess of Coolsville and an American troubadour, will bring his eclectic, jazzy trio to the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on March 5.
Before the pandemic, Jones brought her unique melodic voice to the North Shore on several occasions, performing to sold-out audiences at Cabot in Beverly and Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury. She also played Shalin Liu in the past. “It’s the place that’s all wood and overlooks the ocean, isn’t it?” she asked during our recent Zoom chat.
Four and a half decades of performing have brought Jones to stages around the world. Her self-titled debut album, including the single “Chuck E.’s in Love”, made her a staple on FM radio. Additional tracks from this collection, released in 1979 and reaching number three on the US charts (and number one in Australia), became standards in his intimate performances, including “Young Blood”, “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and “The Last Chance Texaco”, the latter lending its name to his autobiography published by Grove Press last year.
The albums that followed ventured into many genres, from techno ghost head (1997), grunge-influenced eclectic The sermon on the boulevard of the exhibition (2007), three collections of pop and jazz covers. I would be remiss if I did not highlight the years 1989 flying cowboys, produced by the late Walter Becker of Steely Dan, as one of the best albums of the last thirty years.
This mixture of styles at Jones artwork is part of his musical DNA. Her father, Richard, was a singer-songwriter, and her father, Frank “Peg Leg” Jones, and her mother, Myrtle Lee, were vaudeville performers in Chicago. But it’s as nourishing as it is natural, says Jones. “People who love music are drawn to a diverse sound,” she says. “It could be a personality like Hank Williams or the beautiful song I wrote about what it’s like to be alone. It’s easier for me to like the music than to exclude [any type of] the music, because it doesn’t fit into the particular banner that I associate myself with.
When Jones was signed and her first record hit radio stations and the charts, marketers and critics tried to pigeonhole her. But Jones pushed the boundaries and produced music that was as varied as it was poetic.
These days, Jones calls New Orleans home, a place known for its historic musical culture. This city is unlike any other city,” she said. “I live two blocks from an elementary school church where children come to study trumpet, trombone, horn and form street marching bands. The children are there winter and summer and work until eight or nine o’clock in the evening. When you see this, you realize that this music is part of the soul of these people. »
When asked ‘what’s next’ for Rickie Lee Jones, his response showed the 67-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. The stories in her memoir are just the beginning “of the story that must go on,” she says. Additional stories will be part of a TV show she is working on and possibly a staged. She also returned to her roots to make another jazz album with Russ Titelman, who produced her first two albums as well as those in 1995. Naked Songs: Live and Acoustic.
In the liner noted at naked songs, Jones mentions that Bob Dylan once called her a poet. A burning question I’ve been asking myself for years is, “Which was more of an honor: winning two Grammys or seeing Dylan call you a poet?” Jones laughs and asks, “What do you think?”
Rickie Lee Jones is an American treasure. She is part of a pantheon of singers who have given shape and texture to the soundtrack of our lives. Her voice, with simple but wonderful and strange intervals, was influenced by the pioneers who preceded her. She raises her metaphorical hat (she no longer dons her raspberry beret) to Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and especially Nina Simone.
There are a handful of tickets left for the show. Visit the Shalin Liu website to buy.