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Norah Jones

Not Too Late (Blue Note)

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Norah Jones is nice, mellow of voice, and just kittenish enough to titillate the jazzbos she pretends to represent. Crafting wistful and yearning tunes, her delivery is self-assured yet modest, like letting the listener in on deep secrets.

On Not Too Late, Jones' third album, cellos spell emotion, horns shadow rhythm & blues, and the rare drums suggest -- more than lay down -- a backbeat. Tempos, as usual, are resolutely mid, but this time out Jones varies her textures every so often: "Sinkin' Soon," a tune possibly about Katrina, exudes a New Orleans feel, complete with mandolin and guitjo. The political ambiguity continues with "Wish I Could," which might be about Iraq -- or war in general. Who knows? Jones is comfortably vague -- passive-aggressive enough not to offend anyone.

Beautifully produced by boyfriend and bassist Lee Alexander, Not Too Late glides by like a summer afternoon and, like its two predecessors, rarely ruffles the feathers. Just about everything is nice in Jones' subdued world, it seems -- even when she tackles war and homelessness.

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