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Album Review: Norah Jones, ‘Not Too Late’

Norah Jones (Supplied publicity photo, 2007)

Jones’ third release (well, fourth if you count her underrated Little Willies side project) is far from the sunny country sounds of her sophomore release Feels Like Home. These days Jones is wading into darker waters and coming out with stronger and stranger stories about war, forbidden love, and even death. Case in point is the weird, “Sinkin’ Soon” with its odd shuffle, and ‘20s muted trumpet solo that could easily have come off a Tom Waits record. But all you Starbucks hipsters and soccer moms don’t fret. There are still plenty of soulful mid-tempo ballads, and Jones’ smooth and sexy voice still sneaks up on you as it did on her debut Come Away With Me. It’s just that this time ‘round, Jones was actually part of the writing process (with some help from producer/bassist/boyfriend Lee Alexander) and that is good news. Highlights include the heartbreaker “Wake Me Up,” “Little Room,” which features a funny and extensive whistling solo, and the painful opener “Wish I Could” is storytelling at it’s best. In “Wish I Could” Jones consoles a friend because her man has gone to war, but it ends up with Jones musing, “I don’t tell her that I once loved you too/Or about the things we used to do/I kiss her and think of you.” Overall, Not Too Late features Jones as a growing lyricist, but still finds her treading familiar musical territory. Fans will love Not Too Late because of this familiarity, but critics will wonder where she’ll take us next. (Blue Note Records/EMI)

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