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The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard.

THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD Rickie Lee Jones (New West, 2007)

Rickie Lee Jones is 52 years old now, the mother of a teenaged daughter, a sober political activist, and spiritual seeker. Her new album is dominated by a raw, aching spiritual hunger--and some equally raw guitar sounds.

For most people, Rickie Lee Jones is frozen in time as the hard-living twentysomething in the beret who had the hit, "Chuck E's in Love," then faded away. Of course, she didn't really fade away. For a while she veered off into jazz--a sure way to lose a mass audience. Then motherhood happened. Like many artists of her generation, Jones was shocked back into action by the Bush administration, and The Evening of My Best Day (V2 Ada, 2003) was a carefully planned and crafted return to form.

But The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard was an accidental album. Jones' close friend Lee Cantelon is a visual artist who published The Words, a topically-arranged translation of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels. In 2005 Cantelon was compiling an audio version of The Words over a droning acoustic guitar and percussion backing track, and Jones was one of his readers. But then, mid-session, she dropped the book and began singing variations on the gospel texts. Four of the tracks on Exposition Boulevard are from that session. These include the albums opening and closing songs ("Nobody Knows My Name" and "I Was There"); "Where I Like It Best," which paraphrases Jesus' teachings on prayer; and "Donkey Ride," which is, of course, a meditation on Palm Sunday.

Later Jones wrote and recorded eight more songs with related lyrical themes (including the directly gospel-based "Gethsemane" and "Lamp of the Body") and compatible low-tech guitar-based backing tracks. The result is a thrilling indie-rock gospel album for people who think, but may or may not believe.
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Author:Collum, Danny Duncan
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:May 1, 2007
Words:309
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