Rickie Lee Jones
“So now, no beret, no boyfriends, no badass bravado,” writes Rickie Lee Jones in a press release for her latest album, “The Other Side of Desire.” “I am badass, but who cares. No one is taking my lifestyle to market. I am who I am, the age I am. What I have is music.”
One of the most acclaimed and talented singer-songwriters of our time, Jones returns to Maui to play the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku on Tuesday and Wednesday. Vaulted into the national spotlight in 1979 with the hit song “Chuck E.’s in Love,” Jones’ self-titled album won her the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Dubbed “The Duchess of Coolsville” by Time magazine, her success continued with albums like “Pirates” and “Girl at Her Volcano,” and Grammy honors followed when she won Best Jazz Performance for a duet with Dr. John.
“I have had a most extraordinary career,” Jones says. “The big success of the debut, rise and fall of Queen of Pop, which I like to think I reluctantly reigned for a couple of years until the pressure simply disintegrated my will.”
Continuing to evolve over the years, Jones draws inspiration for her latest CD from her relocation to the cultural melting pot of New Orleans. Strains of Fats Domino-style swamp-pop, honky tonk and Cajun waltzes wind through “The Other Side of Desire,” which Jones explains “could not have been written without the backdrop of New Orleans – its river, trains, barroom ghosts and sudden bands all playing the same song.”
A multi-instrumentalist, Jones plays guitars, banjo, keyboards and percussion on the album, which she reports was made “using the clay of this place and the shapes of my eyes to form some kind of picture of my life, that hopefully others can enjoy.”
In tandem with the album, a new documentary on her life was released, with a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. She was also the subject of a new musical, “Coolsville,” which featured her songs performed by the Boston Conservatory.
Besides crafting compelling original material, Jones also excels as a gifted interpreter. Released in 2000, covers on the Grammy-nominated album “It’s Like This,” ranged from Traffic’s “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” to Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids.”
“Not since Billie Holiday has there been a vocalist who so completely transforms a song into her own,” praised Allmusic. “On ‘It’s Like This,’ Rickie Lee Jones envelops standards, show tunes, ’70s soul, and even slick jazz-rock, interpreting them with her familiar childlike, breathy shouts.”
Among the highlights on “The Devil You Know” in 2012, she managed to make the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” even scarier than the original, and deliver an even more sublime version of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” than Neil Young.
As for her original work, the extraordinary “The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard,” in 2007, saw Jones jubilantly rocking out on a project that explored Jesus’ teaching for our contemporary time, improvising songs in stream-of-consciousness sessions. She followed that two years later with the magnificent “Balm in Gilead,” whose title referenced the traditional spiritual “There is a Balm in Gilead,” which describes how a healing compound makes the wounded whole.
As a unique, mercurial artist inhabiting her own universe, she talks about how, “I have been defying convention since I began, and that is still my banner. ‘Chuck E.’s in Love’ was only big, and is only still remembered because it was so different from anything that had been going on in music. The song helped open the door to the folky singer-songwriter thing from some back alley where harder, rougher stories were taking place. I was sexual, tough, wild and these things mattered at that time.”
Performing in Wailuku backed by a keyboardist, Jones has called live shows a mystical experience.
“I play for people, they love, they are moved, they cry; I see their true selves,” she notes. “I love playing music, learning, courage and sound. I love this.”
Hawaiian virtuoso Willie K returns to his roots when he joins his four brothers for a special “The Sons of Manu Kaha’iali’i” show Friday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.
During the show, the brothers will share music and stories about their father and growing up on Maui.
“It’s the first time we’re performing together officially,” says Willie. “We did a Christmas show, but it was just part of the show. This is just the boys getting together, to try and make the magic happen that we used to do when we were little kids.”
Willie recalls that he was about 8 when he first played in his father’s band in Waikiki in 1968.
“I was singing, and then when we moved to Maui, I became my dad’s xylophone player for his Polynesian review show,” he says. “The vibes were my first instrument. Back in the ’70s, we pretty much opened up every resort hotel on the west side and Woolworths at the Maui Mall, and most of the McDonald’s all over Maui.”
The MACC concert will focus on Hawaiian music, including songs from the family’s recording “Maui Style.”
“It will be the classic Hawaiian songs that our father trained us to sing,” Willie explains. “It’s going to be a fun, good Hawaiian ohana atmosphere.”
One of Willie’s brothers, Kalani Kaha’iali’i, (Willie calls him No. 5) will host the annual Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival in Seattle in September, “and he wanted the brothers to perform with him,” Willie adds. “So if it works out really well, we could have a recording project.”
Last month, Willie and the Warehouse Blues Band performed at Colorado’s Blues from the Top Festival. They continue to present a weekly dinner show on Thursday nights at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.
* Join Willie K and his brothers for “The Sons of Manu Kaha’iali’i” show at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $30 and $45 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Popular singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb returns to the MACC to present a Solo Sessions show in the McCoy Studio Theater on Saturday.
Loeb became the first unsigned artist to top the American charts in 1994 with her single “Stay (I Missed You),” from the soundtrack to the hit movie “Reality Bites.”
The song spent three weeks at the No. 1 spot after the film’s release and eventually sold more than 750,000 copies worldwide and earned Loeb a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance.
Loeb’s debut album, “Tails,” sold gold and earned another Grammy nomination, as did her follow-up, “Firecracker,” which included the Top 20 single “I Do.”
“I was really lucky,” says Loeb. “I got to make music the way I wanted and somehow it got through the system. In retrospect, it was really miraculous.”
After her early successs, Loeb developed a multidimensional career encompassing music, film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings. Her most recent album, “Nursery Rhyme Parade!,” features classic nursery rhymes and songs.
Loeb says she experiences her greatest joy as a musician playing “live to an audience that actually really wants to hear the music. It’s the most fun playing songs for people.”
* Lisa Loeb will present a Solo Sessions show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. Maui-based singer-songwriter Gail Swanson will open. Tickets are $30, $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Multi-Hoku-winning group Kapena will headline an End of the Summer Bash on Saturday at the Keokea Homestead Marketplace. Last year marked the original group’s 30th anniversary since entering the Brown Bags to Stardom competition.
Fronted by Kelly Boy DeLima, the group now features his children, Kapena, Kalena and Lilo. Malino and Sly Dog will also play. The concert runs from 3:30 to 10 p.m.
* Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For tickets and more information, visit www.gb3hawaii.com.
The music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead will be celebrated at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia at 9 p.m. Saturday, with the sixth annual “The Days Between” show featuring the Maui Pranksters.
* Admission is $10 at the door. For more information, visit www.charleysmaui.com.