Something Else! sneak peek: Rickie Lee Jones, "Sympathy for the Devil" (2012)

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Rickie Lee Jones’ brilliant new take on “Sympathy for the Devil,” featured on a forthcoming album of cover songs for Concord Records, neatly sidesteps expectations.

No, Jones doesn’t approach this with the nervy cocksuredness that we’ve all come to associate with Mick Jagger’s original reading for the Rolling Stones. Neither, however, did she apply the winking coo of her seminal hit “Chuck E’s in Love.”

Instead, Jones sounds like a dusty-booted Delta singer, channeling some bad spirit, remembering something that sends shivers, singing it then through clinched lips, or in a guttural whisper (as if saying these things too loudly would conjure the devil himself between her and the audience), then moving finally into a high-pitched reverie at the end — like someone who’s said too much, and must simply give herself over to the fates.

[LISTEN TO IT HERE!: Stream “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones, from Rickie Lee Jones’ upcoming album of cover songs ‘The Devil You Know’ with Ben Harper.]

If these are the kind of unexpected treasures awaiting on The Devil You Know, due on September 18, 2012, then it’s going to be a deeply intriguing journey.

The other key to this track’s success, beyond Jones’ gutty performance, is the spare instrumentation — something that gives the take a raw, brutally honest feel. Jones teamed up with producer Ben Harper, a long-time fan, and he promised a “simple, surprising” album of covers. So far, so good.

Also included on The Devil You Know are new interpretations of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” the Band’s “The Weight,” Donovan’s “Catch the Wind,” Van Morrison’s “Comfort You,” the traditional tune “St. James Infirmary,” Harper’s “Masterpiece” and “Play With Fire,” another Rolling Stones classic.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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