NORTH STONINGTON — Rickie Lee Jones, the Grammy-winning Duchess of Coolsville herself, famous for her voice, her style, her berets and her hit single "Chuck E’s in Love," was on the phone from her home in New Orleans talking about her upcoming concert at Jonathan Edwards Winery, her tour, and her newly released album, "Kicks."
"I want to make people feel better," said Jones. "I wanted to keep moving in a positive direction and I wanted to make a simple piece of art."
"Kicks," which came out in June, is an "all-New Orleans" recording, produced by Jones with her bandmate, vibraphonist Mike Dillion, and features Louisiana-based musicians performing an eclectic collection of 10 songs "of a highly infectious nature" including Louis Armstrong's "Mack the Knife;" "Bad Company;" the song by the hard rock band of the same name; Elton John's "My Father's Gun;" America's "Lonely People;" Sanford Clark's "Houston;" the song made famous by Dean Martin; Russ Morgan's "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You;" — another Dean martin hit; "Nagasaki" by the Ipana Troubadours, made famous by Benny Goodman; the Steve Miller Band's "Quicksilver Girl;" Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World" and "Cry" the 1951 Ruth Casey hit made famous by Johnnie Ray and the Four Lads.
The record evokes a bit of the 1960s, said Jones, and while the words "have no roots," they express, "more than anything, the meaning of the time and place."
"My intent with 'Kicks' was to include the character of the locality, the world around me," Jones writes in the album notes. "Although, I have lived in this city off and on for four decades, I only now see myself as, possibly, evolving from here. I infused a little bit of New Orleans into every selection."
The storied singer who has collaborated with everyone from Tom Waits to Alison Krause, once famously called herself a tumbleweed, reluctant to put down roots.
She moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles about five years ago, she said, and the city "Keeps me here."
"I'm a pioneer," said the musician whose career has spanned five decades. "We forge new ways ... we're people who have no country."
The "tradition and courtesy" of her adopted hometown, feed her "confidence as a human being" she said.
Jones, who has recorded in various musical styles including rock, R&B, blues, pop, soul, and jazz, was listed at number 30 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock & Roll in 1999, her album "Pirates" was number 49 on NPR's list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women and her debut on Warners, "Rickie Lee Jones," released in 1979, won the Grammy for "Best New Artist."
Jones' music has been included in soundtracks for television ("Thirtysomething",) film ("Jerry Maguire,") and commercials (McDonalds and Dr. Pepper.)
The critic Hilton Als wrote that her lyrics are "as taut and complex as any by the great American poet, Elizabeth Bishop" and called her album, "Ghostyhead," "the aural equivalent of painter Georgia O'Keefe's most rigorous and beautiful canvases."
"Live shows are so much a part of who I am," said Jones. "The experience of me live is where I do what I do."
"Live shows are magic," she added, "they're exciting and full of energy."