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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

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What does a shrug sound like? On "Don't Know Why,” the opening track of her debut effort, Norah Jones suggests a few possibilities. The first time she sings the title phrase, she gives it a touch of indifference, the classic tossed-off movie-star shrug. Her tone shifts slightly when she hits the chorus, to convey twinges of sadness; here the casual phrasing could be an attempt to shake off a sharp memory. Later, she shrugs in a way that conveys resignation, possibly regret—she's replaying a scene, trying to understand what happened. Those shrugs and shadings, tools deployed by every jazz vocalist of the 1950s, are inescapable throughout Come Away With Me—in part because everything surrounding Jones' voice is so chill. There's room for her to emote, and room for gently cresting piano and organ chords. Unlike so many of her contemporaries, Jones knows instinctively how much (or how little!) singer the song needs. The secret of this record, which came out when Jones was 22, is its almost defiant approachability: It is calm, and open, and gentle, music for a lazy afternoon in a porch swing. As transfixing covers of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You” make clear, Jones thinks about contours and shadows when she sings; her storytelling depends as much on the scene and the atmosphere as the narrative. And Jones applies the same understatement to the original songs here, which weave together elements of country, pop, jazz and torch balladry in inventive ways. It's one thing to render an old tune with modern cleverness, a skill Jones had honed as a solo pianist/singer before she was discovered. It's quite another to transform an original tune, like Jesse Harris' "Don't Know Why,” into something that sounds ageless and eternal, like a standard. Jones does that, over and over, using just shrugs and implications, rarely raising her voice much above a whisper. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

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Pop - Released February 10, 2004 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

It may be far too obvious to even mention that Norah Jones' follow-up to her 18-million-unit-selling, eight-Grammy-winning, genre-bending, super-smash album Come Away with Me has perhaps a bit too much to live up to. But that's probably the biggest conundrum for Jones: having to follow up the phenomenal success of an album that was never designed to be so hugely popular in the first place. Come Away with Me was a little album by an unknown pianist/vocalist who attempted to mix jazz, country, and folk in an acoustic setting -- who knew? Feels Like Home could be seen as "Come Away with Me Again" if not for that fact that it's actually better. Smartly following the template forged by Jones and producer Arif Mardin, there is the intimate single "Sunrise," some reworked cover tunes, some interesting originals, and one ostensible jazz standard. These are all good things, for also like its predecessor, Feels Like Home is a soft and amiable album that frames Jones' soft-focus Aretha Franklin voice with a group of songs that are as classy as they are quiet. Granted, not unlike the dippy albeit catchy hit "Don't Know Why," they often portend deep thoughts but come off in the end more like heartfelt daydreams. Of course, Jones could sing the phone book and make it sound deep, and that's what's going to keep listeners coming back. What's surprising here are the bluesy, more jaunty songs that really dig into the country stylings only hinted at on Come Away with Me. To these ends, the infectious shuffle of "What Am I to You?" finds Jones truly coming into her own as a blues singer as well as a writer. Her voice has developed a spine-tingling breathy scratch that pulls on your ear as she rises to the chorus. Similarly, "Toes" and "Carnival Town" -- co-written by bassist Lee Alexander and Jones -- are pure '70s singer/songwriting that call to mind a mix of Rickie Lee Jones and k.d. lang. Throw in covers of Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt along with Duke Ellington's "Melancholia," retitled here "Don't Miss You at All" and featuring lyrics by Jones, and you've got an album so blessed with superb songwriting that Jones' vocals almost push the line into too much of a good thing. Thankfully, there is also a rawness and organic soulfulness in the production that's refreshing. No digital pitch correction was employed in the studio and you can sometimes catch Jones hitting an endearingly sour note. She also seems to be making good on her stated desire to remain a part of a band. Most all of her sidemen, who've worked with the likes of Tom Waits and Cassandra Wilson, get writing credits. It's a "beauty and the beast" style partnership that harks back to the best Brill Building-style intentions and makes for a quietly experimental and well-balanced album. © Matt Collar /TiVo

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Norah Jones in the magazine
  • Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones
    Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones Ahead of her new album release this coming Friday, 7th October, Marc Zisman of Qobuz had the opportunity to sit with the world renowned jazz artist to chat about life, music, and more...