Rickie Lee joneses for the road

Review of her new memoir Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour by Rickie Lee Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Yes, I am a longtime fan. I remember the SNL appearance and the beginning of her FM play with Chuck E; My friends and I (bc that was how you watched SNL then) were struck by the originality of the songs and of the singer herself. As suburban kids, we were a little awed but very charmed by her total commitment.
I carried her cassettes in my secondhand cars for decades, rewinding perfectly to replay and replay some of my favorite songs: The Horses, Company, Last Chance Texaco, Coolsville, Ghetto of My Mind… the list goes on too long to have it all here. Now it is digital and even longer.
But I think even if I wasn’t a fan of her music (and now someone who seems to frequent many of the same places and has a few people in common, neither of which is that unusual in New Orleans), I think I’d still have purchased this. I love memoirs. When done right, the well-told personal story is more fascinating to me than any tale.
The movement implied in one of her greatest songs had Rickie arranging her book in sections of “The Backseat, Riding Shotgun, The Driver’s Seat, and The Way Back Seat” showing how one’s journey/quest isn’t always led by its protagonist. Her story has elements that I and many other mid-20th century American kids recognize too well, full of broken homes, drugs and drink, friends and love dropping in and out, and violence out there on the road, which astonishingly, was often just a near-miss for Rickie and for so many of us. At least she had the job of a Troubadour to explain why she stayed (stays) out there for so long. Even with the romantic job description, she admits to the dead-ends she herself pursued, the people she may have moved on from maybe before their time in her life should have been completed. But that’s the deal isn’t it – if you keep moving forward, you’re gonna leave people behind. Leaving is the drug I think many of us can’t kick.
If you are looking for “famous people” stories, she throws in a few, but only because they are meaningful to her travels. This is an artist’s story, and so hers to decide what and who was important and life-changing and illustrative Her love and empathy for those who were a roadblock are extraordinary to me. I’m not as evolved & stay mostly pissed at everyone.
It’s extraordinary but not surprising, as her listeners and readers know, having felt the sweetness and tenderness in her work since the beginning.
In the song, it’s the last chance for love along a road that may not have options coming up again. In the memoir, there is hope and promise in Rickie’s story that she has come to see success is about choosing new happy over the old hurt, and always, the freedom to create over the pursuit of empty fame. She also accepts the importance of family, realizing that they always have the sign lit for each other.
And of course, her travel story is certainly not done yet. So, if you are out there and see a woman with a guitar, a smile, a sweet voice, and a lot of killer songs under her arm…



View all my reviews

About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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