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Album Review

Rickie Lee Jones, 'Balm in Gilead'

November 30, 2009

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Pop
Rickie Lee Jones Balm in Gilead
Fantasy
ESSENTIAL “Wild Girl’’

Thirty years into her career, restless, prickly Rickie Lee Jones sounds positively peaceful on “Balm in Gilead,’’ an intimate paean to family, memory, and motion. Like its namesake, this music has healing properties: the beauty of its melodies and the wisdom of its words soothe the soul and remind us what a peculiar treasure Jones is, a fact too easily forgotten in the rush of passing fashions and the wake of the artist’s own pocked path. The songwriting spans two decades and a plethora of styles - country waltzes, the blues, finger-snapping pop, folksy gospel, and horn-stoked soul - and there’s a pungent sense of warped time here. “Wild Girl,’’ the lilting opening track, is a love letter to Jones’s daughter on the eve of her 21st birthday, but she might as well be singing it to herself. Her father composed the jazzy lullaby “The Moon Is Made of Gold’’ many moons ago for his daughter; Jones’s sweet cover is another sort of love letter. She transcends time and flesh on “His Jeweled Floor,’’ a spectral prayer featuring Vic Chestnutt and Victoria Williams, and crash lands on the very next track. “All my old friends/ Have gone underground/ They fall so hard/ I am the last of my kind in this town,’’ she sings on “Eucalyptus Trail.’’ All a listener can say is: please stay. (Out now) -- JOAN ANDERMAN

Rickie Lee Jones performs at Berklee Performance Center Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets $33, $38, $50 at www.ticketmaster.com or 866-448-7849.