The Evening of My Best Day

Rickie Lee Jones

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The Evening of My Best Day Review

by Thom Jurek

On her first offering of new, self-penned material in six years, Rickie Lee Jones offers songs from the font of the well. No covers, no live tracks, just an honest to goodness studio offering of fine songs that underscore Jones reputation as the most wonderful kind of idiosyncratic songwriter. And she owes George W. Bush for it -- she began writing again in frustrated and indignant response to Bush's hotly contended election to the highest office in the land -- one listen to "Tell Somebody (Repeal The Patriot Act)," a jumping gospel and soul tune, is all the proof one needs. But The Evening Of My Best Day is not merely a political album, it is one of poetics and grace, threaded through with jazz, folk, blues, R&B, and rock, all siphoned through Jones' vocal and lyrical strainer. With production help from the gifted guitarist David Kalish (who worked on her masterpiece, Pirates), Jones has crafted an utterly compelling, even riveting, selection of tunes that go from bright to opaque, to dark and back again by album's end. Her choice of studio musicians and backing vocalists is impeccable as well. Players like Fender Rhodes king Neil Larsen, Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and backing vocalist Grant Lee Phillips, whose Fender gives "Bitchenostrophy," a jazz tune, a gorgeous Brazilian samba lilt. David Hidalgo's acoustic guitar, in commingling with Kalish's electric, stand in juxtaposition with Rene Camacho's acoustic bass and a small string section, to offer a modern day folk tale with a melody that seems to come out of the ether of time. On "It Tasks You There," Jones employs Nels Cline on electric guitar with Kalish playing dobro in a gorgeously textured exhortation against materialism and toward a practical spiritual awakening that is highlighted by backing vocals from Syd Straw and Phillips. Jones' singing is more disciplined than ever before, giving her sometimes visionary lyrics the edge they need to get over -- such as on the bluesed-out "Mink Coat At The Bus Stop," with a bridge that seems like it was grafted from another song yet fits airtight, like a worn and beloved leather glove lined with silk. On the title track, Jones addresses the period of her creative drought and how she was perceived and ridiculed by those on the outside. But it's a song of tenderness and empathy, utterly without avarice or anger -- just empathy, and forgiveness. In many ways, The Evening Of My Best Day is a revisiting of the scope, textures, and vision of Pirates. But it is not a look back. Where that recording addressed romantic love, this one addresses love for the human race with all its quirks and shortcomings, from the point of view of one who lives there everyday. It is alternately intimate and cinematic -- in an indie film way -- and it is breathtakingly, unapologetically and unmistakably moving and true and elegant. And does it ever swing.

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