Sound alternatives

Rickie Lee Jones broke into the music business in 1979 with the jazz-pop novelty hit “Chuck E’s in Love,” and she has been a maddening enigma ever since. At best she’s inconsistent, at worst she’s the embodiment of the tortured artist: all tantrum and attitude with little worthy fruit to show. So when Jones embarked on an album framed by gospel cinemascapes, you could feel music critics circling like Pharisee vultures. What business does Jones have tackling scripture? Isn’t this the kind of task better suited for Christian artists such as Buddy and Julie Miller or T-Bone Burnett?

It seems Jones was betting on a sort of creative resurrection—which, depending on your viewpoint, either reeks of calculation or suggests an earnest reach for salvation. Jones herself wrote in the midst of this project: “We have Christ and though there are few words, they are enough, they are enough to last two thousand years.”


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