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Fall Roundup

September 19, 1993|CHRIS WILLMAN

RICKIE LEE JONES

"Traffic From Paradise"

Geffen

* * *

Jones' first new collection of original material in four years is both about, and full of, grace. Although it has no genre elements, the sumptuously gentle "Traffic From Paradise" is almost her version of a gospel album, populated by more angels than a Wim Wenders movie and full of longings for the type of reconciliation that might only be possible in some guided hereafter.

Spiritual allusions aside, it's infused with a mother's mercy and a recent divorcee's darker musings, which creates a healthy emotional tension. The music is anything but tense: This self-produced work is Jones' most "unplugged" record, with emphasis taken from the acoustic influence of recent frequent collaborator Leo Kottke.

A mid-album acoustic version of Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" provides playfulness, but most of what comes quietly before and after is pretty much pure tone poetry. Jones' gift for subtle harmony is unerring, even under the spontaneous conditions under which these songs were briskly written and recorded; a few tunes' teasingly elusive lyrics, though, could've benefited from longer baking time.

In any case, by the time "Traffic" moves through some ambiguous passages toward its paradisiacal climax in "The Albatross," it's beautifully clear that there's peace in the post-beat valley after all.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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