Rickie Lee Jones to headline Sirens on the Mountain

By Derek Halsey (reporter@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 22
Rickie Lee Jones to headline Sirens on the Mountain

Rickie Lee Jones’s latest album is a project of covers produced by Ben Harper, called ‘The Devil You Know,’ where she brings a unique approach to classic songs, like ‘The Weight,’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ ‘Play With Fire’ and more.

Photo by Myriam Santos

Grammy Award-winning singer Rickie Lee Jones, who will headline the Sirens on the Mountain music festival on Saturday night, came on the music scene in the late 1970s like a breath of fresh air.

Precocious and talented, with both pop and jazz sensibilities swirling together in her singing style, Jones’s first album and its subsequent hit, “Chuck E’s in Love,” garnered multiple Grammy nominations and a win in the Best New Artist category.

Jones slowly bubbled to the upper reaches of the music world after she moved to Los Angeles and became a part of the city’s artistic community. Soon, established musicians like the late Lowell George of Little Feat, Emmylou Harris and Tom Waits took notice of her singing and songwriting talent. George would eventually record one of her songs, “Easy Money,” and she also began a long-time collaborative friendship with Dr. John during that period.

After Jones’s self-titled first album climbed to the top of the charts, she graced the covers of magazines, like Rolling Stone and TIME, made a memorable appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and headlined at Carnegie Hall. With her second album, “Pirates,” however, she went into more of a jazz groove while losing some of her pop momentum. Since then, she has done things her own way.

Jones’s latest album is a project of covers produced by Ben Harper, called “The Devil You Know,” where she brings a unique approach to classic songs, like “The Weight,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “St. James Infirmary” and “Play With Fire.”

As The Mountain Times interviews Jones, she is in New Orleans writing new songs for her first all-original album in a decade.

“I can’t speak to (life in New Orleans) post- or pre-Katrina,” Jones said. “I lived here long ago in 1981, but I can say this town is a living town. Its inhabitants really love it. They love all the things about it. It’s a very living city. Unapologetic and celebratory, in perpetuity.”

New Orleans is also the home of the great Dr. John, with whom Jones won a Grammy in 1990 for Best Jazz Duo for their remake of the standard, “Makin’ Whoopee.”

“I met Dr. John in 1978,” Jones said. “He was walking down La Brea Avenue (in Los Angeles), carrying a cane with a snake head and wearing mojos around his neck. Later, I would ‘get in the way of a spell cast by some witches in Arkansas,’ so I guess he was just being careful. No worry, he put dragon’s blood on each corner of my room. I was wearing that little 1940s dress with gloves and a beret. I don’t know who had on more patchouli oil. He took me to a little house in the back of an A&M studio and started playing some ballads with me, singing ‘Since I Fell’ and ‘My Funny Valentine.’ I was thinking it was a little odd. Then, we go over to talk to Tommy LiPuma (Grammy Award-winning producer), and Dr. John tells him, ‘I was playing the horn line the fifth relative to the bar … and she just stayed wit it poyfekly.’ It was at my audition. He liked telling that story.”

As Jones comes to the Sirens on the Mountain festival, it will be her first appearance in Boone, although she has played in Asheville in the past. She is looking forward to exploring this part of North Carolina, as well.

“I have played in Asheville a couple of times with guitarist Leo Kottke,” Jones said. “We had an encounter with a water moccasin, but that was offstage. But I have never been in the mountains of North Carolina, and I’m looking forward to playing where so much wonderful American music was born. Like New Orleans, these places are our national treasures, and we can guard them best by just living in them and supporting the local habitat — two-legged, four-legged, winged or just trunked.”
The Sirens on the Mountain music and arts festival will feature Jones, along with Blues Music Award-winner Bettye LaVette, Rising Appalachia, Melissa Reaves, Michelle Malone, Shannon Whitworth, Gigi Dover, Laura Blackley, Samantha O‘Brien, Redleg Husky, Amythyst Kiah and more.

The festival will take place on June 20 and 21. Tickets are $75 for both days, with daily ticket prices at $25 for Friday and $50 for Saturday. Free tent camping will also be available, and arts and craft booths and culinary delights will add to the music experience. More information can be found at http://www.sirensonthemountain.com.

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