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Rock Desk

Welcome to the Rock Desk, where Seattle Times rock critic Patrick MacDonald fills you in on the latest news, upcoming concerts, news releases and insider info on the rock 'n' roll beat. Music critic Tom Scanlon also contributes local music and club news.

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March 17, 2007 9:29 AM

Rickie's in Love -- with Life

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

Rickie Lee Jones has been through the music-business wringer and come out of it feeling "fantastic to be alive," she told a small but supportive audience at a SXSW session this morning in the Austin Convention Center.

"I feel unstoppable now," she said, explaining that she's been through a spiritual experience involving "Jesus, God, what I call the Invisible World."

"What do I have to complain about? I'm still here!"

In the 28th year of a music career with spectacular highs and lows, she said she feels the best is still ahead.

"Good is coming," she insisted. "Some great wave of good fortune I know is coming."

A quarter century ago, Jones (a former Olympia, Wash., resident) was dubbed The Duchess of Coolsville after "Chuck E.'s in Love" became a huge No. 1 hit. Her sultry, jazzy style and hipster image put her on the cover of Rolling Stone, and seemingly on the fast track to superstardom.

But as she followed her muse, getting more and more morose and introspective in her lyrics, and more experimental in her music, the audience didn't follow along with her, nor did the critics.

"I got bad reviews and they hurt a lot," she said, adding that she now knows there was also a lot of concern from writers, and from disappointed, confused fans.

Her record and ticket sales got so bad, she had to declare bankruptcy four years ago.

"I was blue and angry," she said, "but something has happened. I'm here to serve."

She has come to terms with her past, as epitomized by the new, three-disc retrospective, "The Duchess of Coolsville."

Seemingly content but still quirky, Jones arranged the songs in alphabetical order.

"It just seemed to work out that way," she said.

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