Some things are so perfectly formed that not one thing could be added or taken away to make it even the tiniest bit better.
Rickie Lee Jones' new album 'Balm In Gilead' is one such thing.
I have to pinch myself to believe that it is thirty years since I purchased her debut album. Another perfect and unforgettable wonder.
This new collection of ten compositions stands resolutely shoulder to shoulder with the very best of her work.
Ms Jones' voice still possesses a fragile warmth and the ability to communicate complex and honest emotion like no other. Magical and instantly recognisable.
She has, as always, surrounded herself with a sympathetic and hugely gifted group of musicians and co-performers to bring this wonderful music to life. Everyone gives their love and their best work to the project.
Things open beautifully with 'Wild Girl', a twenty-first birthday gift to her daughter. It is a tender and affectionate song full of pride and just a little sadness....the sadness of watching our young ones grow, stretch their wings and fly over and beyond us. Beautiful.
'Old Enough' is a loose-limbed and lovely duet with Ben Harper. The song, co-written with David Kalish, is a laid-back model of all that we have come to know and love about Ms Jones. Tom Evans' Sax and Brian Swartz's Trumpet deliver perfectly judged accents.
The lilting country ballad 'Remember Me' is simply gorgeous. Alison Krauss's violin and Joel Guzman's accordion add warmth and grace to a consummately executed vocal performance.
'The Moon Is Made Of Gold' is a lullaby written for Ms Jones by her Father Richard Loris Jones when she was a child. Memory is brought to life again here with delightful simplicity. It is a touching and heart-warming experience.
The shifting harmonies and simple folk melody of 'His Jeweled Floor' is one of the most affecting songs that Ms Jones has created in her long career. The dream-like atmosphere is intoxicating.
'Eucalyptus Trail' takes time to make its mark. The subtle and elusive melody and wistfully surreal lyrics evolve into a strange soulful anthem. One of the album's many highlights.
'The Blue Ghazel' is a limber, jazzy instrumental blessed with some fine guitar playing from Ms Jones, Joel Guzman's chirruping Hammond organ and Paulie Cerra's slinky saxophone.
'The Gospel Of Carlos, Norman and Smith' (another number co-written with Mr Kalish) brings Chris Joyner and RLJ together in a song with an honest vision and a big soul. The gospel according to Ms Jones.
'Bonfires' (stripped down and laser-sharp) and 'Bayless St' (bursting with nostalgia and vivid emotion) bring this quite remarkable album to an uplifting and deeply moving close.
This is music for the lost, the lonely and for those who live with hope in their hearts.
I am a recent convert to Rickie Lee Jones. In my head I had previously filed her under the same category as all those other Americans like Bruce Springsteen, who ar just culturally alien to me. This was based entirely on my prejudice against American blue collar rock and country. I am not anti-American, I love jazz and blues and a whole range of other American rock bands but country and its close rock cousins is the only music I tend to dismiss out of hand; even her I have moved a bit.
My position on Ms Jones was further reinforced by and old colleague, who raves about loads of music I hate, endorsing her; proof positive I thought. Then I heard her debut album recently and looked into her history again, the follow up, Pirate, is just fantastic! Balm in Gilead is way up there near her best work. 30 years after her debut she can still cut it. There is no fading with age, her voice is still a pretty powerful instrument and the songs are good too!
If you have ever been a fan and wonder if this is worth checking out then wonder no more buy it!
Another excellent album from this artist. Her work is always both varied and interesting. She experiments with styles that defy categories. "Remember Me" gets close to country music while "His Jewelled Floor" has a distinctly spiritual feel. Other tracks have the jazz/folky sound that she is probably best known for. generally her voice seems gentler and less aggressive and as such may attract newer fans. As always on her albums the musicians and production are first class. A very good album all round.
This new album returns Rickie Lee Jones back to her familiar best. This album will please both the older fans, and any newcomer to her recordings. Her voice is sublime from beginning to end, and I would have give it 5 star rating but I still love some of her earlier LP's better.