Her early career highlights notwithstanding Rickie Lee Jones' last studio
album, the consummately restrained 'Balm In Gilead' (2009) was, for me, one
of her finest contributions to the listening world. With her sixth decade
snapping hard at her heels this peerless performer has chosen to kick back
with an album of covers and it's a real treat to hear that inimitable voice
wrap itself around this well-chosen collection of iconic songs. There are
ten numbers in the set, including one ('Masterpiece') written for the project
by her collaborator Ben Harper. Ms Lee Jones' larynx remains in remarkable
shape; its fractured vulnerability was always one of her defining strengths
and it's a real joy to hear her idiosyncratic renditions of other songwriter's
work as a counterpoint to her own. The arrangements are weather-worn and
stripped down to the barest bones, the better to reveal their true character.
Take her rendition of The Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy For The Devil' : one can
almost imagine Lucifer himself curled up in a hard-backed chair by his hearth
reflecting with gloating pride on his many misdeeds! Her gravely delivery gives
the song a sense of raw immediacy which makes the hair bristle on your skin.
Her take on The Band's 'The Weight', on the other hand, captures this classic
composition's warm inner light. A gloriously simple but affecting performance.
Tim Hardin's 'Reason To Believe', too, gets a wonderfully bitter-sweet and
yearning interpretation, carried along by a mournful fiddle and acoustic guitar.
An old warhorse like 'St James Infirmary' comes up as fresh as a daisy and final
track, Donovan's timeless 'Catch The Wind', brings the album to a sublime close.
With 'The Devil You Know' Ms Lee Jones proves beyond doubt that she's still at
the top of her game. A seasoned little masterpiece to rank with her very best.