If you need me anytime in the foreseeable future, chances are I’ll be home listening to Rickie Lee Jones. I went to see her show a couple weeks ago, an experience that reverberates. I hadn’t listened to her music in a long time. Now I’m in happy obsession mode and her new album, The Other Side of Desire, is on its way to me. (A lyric from that old Journey song springs to mind out of nowhere, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.” Yes, I’m a huge sap at heart.)
I first discovered her 2+ decades ago, in my 20’s. I listened to her first two albums constantly, then for whatever crazy reason, I stopped there. I must have gotten pulled in some other direction. (Who else was it back then? PJ Harvey. Hole. Ani DiFranco.) Since Jones’s show, I’ve been listening to those same two CD’s again, on repeat. Now I’m ready for some new (and new to me) stuff, so I looked up her discography, and holy shit, between studio and live recordings, there are 18 more albums to explore! It’s like Christmas.
She played in a small, intimate setting (for Southern New England people—the Narrows in Fall River—awesome venue, check it out). She came out in black velvet pants, a regular button down shirt, and bright pink sneakers. Before the first song was over, I thought, “She is all the things.” Equal parts joy, love, cantankerous sarcasm and kooky eccentricity, rawness and sweetness, reverence and irreverence.
She told stories about saving a spider in her tour bus bathroom. About how the energy and character of each audience is different and calls forth something new from her. About human nature and how with all the horror and heartache in the world, the fact that people are still willing to pay money to go listen to live music is evidence of all that is good in us.
One of my favorite talking moments was when she said she and her band love to play that heavier-sounding song they just played, but she always wonders if the people in the audience are thinking, “No, man, I don’t wanna hear no fucking loud wah wah pedal.” Which was funny, because I had kind of thought that for a second, before I decided to relax into it and keep an open mind.
Did I mention her voice still sounds great, she’s a top-notch multi-instrumentalist, and a totally original, unique artist—a creative genius, in fact? I think I was supposed to talk about that first. All this made an impact, of course, but what moved me at least as much as the music was her.
She’s getting older. I looked it up later—61. What I loved most as I watched her perform? I could see the playful little girl, the sexy 30-something, and the crone (in the best sense of the word), all existing together, integrated and intertwined, right up front.
A friend sent me this interview a few days later, which is well worth 25 minutes of your time.
Much ground is covered—the character and people of New Orleans (which I especially loved hearing about since it’s my birthplace), human connection and community, the shock of sudden fame, living with depression, the stigma of addiction, and what it’s like to grow older in a culture that devalues the old, especially women. I felt sad to hear her story of the changes in how people relate to her as she navigates midlife. How women become invisible.
I hear her, and I know it’s true. And, I’m going to hold on to what I had been thinking before I saw the interview.
Now that I’m in my mid-forties, I keep an eye out for women who make me feel sure that getting older is going to be amazing. She is one of those women.
I want her to know that not only her music, but the essence of her being matters for women who have loved her for years and are now entering midlife.
Thank you, Rickie Lee Jones.
© Copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016