- Norah Jones
They're all waiting for her -- the soccer moms who find her soothing, the Pottery Barn bohos who think her appealing, the elitist jazzbos who wonder whether she isn't just Roberta Flack with a pedigree, and everyone else for whom Norah Jones proves that talent can still trump all else. Now she reaps the benefits of going titanium while bearing the burdens of going global, all while she's better suited to playing in the neighborhood nightclub; she's damned if she stays the same, but screwed if she strays from the same-ol' that made her famous so quickly that it almost led her to a breakdown.
So no one will be disappointed with Jones's latest, Feels Like Home: There's no radical departure from her gazillion-selling debut, but just enough twang's been added to the torch to further alienate/ infuriate those who wonder how so pop (and popular) a performer landed on Blue Note, the home of Miles and Monk, and climbed so high on the charts.
Feels Like Home suggests that Jones is unwilling to tamper with the formula; it's easy listening without the disparaging aftertaste, more background music worth turning up at dinner parties when the conversation drags. The voice remains the same -- pretty but never attention-hungry, appropriate for the shy and occasionally awkward performer to whom it belongs. Songs, too, are wisely chosen: Scattered among the originals penned by bassist-boyfriend Lee Alexander, guitarist Adam Levy, New Yawk singer-songwriter Richard Julian, and Jones are numbers by Townes Van Zandt ("Be Here to Love Me") for down-home cred, Tom Waits ("The Long Way Home") for downtown cred, Duke Ellington ("Melancholia," morphed into "Don't Miss You at All" with new Jones-penned lyrics -- and what balls!) for those who'd be happy enough if she'd at least pretend to be jazz every now and again.
But Feels Like Home isn't Come Away With Me, which at this late date feels repetitive and even a touch dull; no wonder it became a hit. Home is far more varied than its predecessor -- a showcase rather than a label's attempt to show off new talent just finding her way. Country-meets-jazz plays pop at an upscale blues club, where the audience likes its music just loud enough to talk over; imagine Bonnie Raitt turned down to three, with Dolly Parton and the Band's Garth Hudson and Levon Helm stopping by to anoint the child who has made being out of style more in vogue than ever before.