Norah Jones

Not Too Late | Blue Note
By JON GARELICK  |  February 6, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
HONESTLY: Whatever her shortcomings, Norah Jones still makes most of the competition sound phony.
No, Norah Jones hasn’t turned into Lucinda Williams. But less honorable folks have sold a gazillion CDs. Her Blue Note debut matched her warm, pitch-perfect singing with jazz-dipped acoustic arrangements, Jesse Harris’s smart comfort-food songwriting, and Arif Mardin’s honest, no-frills production. The voice was small, the ballad tempos were relentless, but it’s never a bad idea to release an album as likable as 2002’s Come Away with Me the February after an international disaster. (Just ask a Beatle.) Not Too Late may lack the sure-fire singles of the debut, but, writing all her own songs for the first time (some with her boyfriend/bassist/producer Lee Alexander), she reveals a cheatin’ heart, a taste for political satire, and even a bit of goth. The music has more bite too: the oom-pah, banjo, and talking plunger-mute trombone of “Sinkin’ Soon”; spot-on country shuffles with brushes and apposite electric guitar solos (by Adam Levy); a soul-horn arrangement (“Thinking About You”); a couple of waltzes; the occasional strummed-and-plucked cellos; her own burbling Wurlitzer piano. And who’d have thought Norah Jones would write a line like “Got blood on his shoes and mud on his brim”? Too good to hate, not exciting enough to love, she still makes most of what’s out there sound like phony baloney.
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