(Please welcome Rickie Lee Jones and Howie Klein who join us in the comments section today — JH)
Rickie Lee Jones has been a great friend to Blue America and a committed lifelong political activist. Along with Tom Maxwell and Ken Mosher she recorded the groundbreaking Have You Had Enough that Howie Klein adapted so successfully for progressive candidates across the country in the 2006 election, and she's soon be giving a benefit concert in Louisiana. Her career has been remarkably long for someone so young, spanning three decades and consistently breaking new ground. She joins us today in the comments section to discuss her new album, Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, and comes bearing gifts — a copy of the new single Falling Up (which I have to say I love).
We're also giving away a pair of tickets with backstage passes to one of Ricki Lee's concerts on her new North American tour (as are Crooks & Liars and DownWithtyrany) for the winner of the contest below so please be sure to enter.
Says Howie of the new album:
Rickie described the new album to me in a way that made me think it's going to be a musical about the musician Rickie Lee Jones who dreams that she wakes up in Jerusalem and apparently is Jesus… except that there are strange pieces of today floating around, and in the end, it was about her life after all. Or… his. Hard to say. The music is raw and immediate… Velvet Underground… Patti Smith, and the singing and performances have a foot on the inspirational ground of Astral Weeks or… hmmm… Primarily guitar, electric guitar. Rickie describes herself "doing dove sounds, howling on a donkey, and praying, serenely, always– with an eye out for any approaching evangelists so I can keep them as far away as possible. It praises the Rabbi's words, and gives harsh commentary to the religion, something the Prophet himself would have approved, no doubt. It's not a Christian work; very little is even said about Christ or Christianity."
It's an album that tackles a subject that secular musicians rarely delve into. And, more than anything, it follows the imagination, fertile imagination, and the heart of Rickie Lee Jones.
"Listening to this record," she told me, "one of the first bloggers wrote about their experience of a Jesus/Jones character, free styles a kind of manifestation… and that is a description in which I feel quite comfortable. The song at the end of this recording called 'I Was There' describes when he/she tells somebody in the room because you've been traveling in so many universes and you manifested here, brother I didn't realize you were talking to me until you broke that bread and I saw that you were.. where have you been that you don't know what's been going on here in Jerusalem, haven't you heard, haven't you heard about the Nazarene? You know, we thought 'we were gonna set Israel free' reminds me of Berkeley, the SDS, children of a lesser God perhaps, or, of the Russian revolution, or, of the Children Crusade…It's been going on for a long time, wars fought under the banner of religion enlightenment torn apart by creeds and manifestos. 'Every generation watches the princes of their nation file away.'"
This is a lonely after hours walk down an empty street, and it evokes another time, could be 1980, could be 86 AD. This person (presumably Rickie) remembering her life from the view of another time in space… Yet it also might be one of the disciples remembering his life through hers… And it works. The broken promises, big hopes, revolutions, misguided, a lost crew, an anthem… the same old story. It is a spell binding performance.
It's an exquisite album from an artist at the peak of her creative abilities, a beautiful and haunting portrait that Rickie Lee sculpts with that unique and evocative voice of hers. I hope you give the single a listen and stop by in the comments and say "hi" and let her know what you think.
Because if you want to enter the contest, you gotta listen to the single. You need to put together a 5 song thematic set of music which includes "Falling Up'", as well as your reasoning (if you like), and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You have 24 hours from the time this posts to create, as Howie Klein says, "an interesting set that your imaginary listeners would love." So give a listen, have a crack at being Blue America dj for a day, and please join Howie, Rickie Lee and me in the comments for this very special edition of the Sunday salon.