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Spotlights [Issue # 7 ]
Norah Jones: Modest Brilliance


Word has it that Norah Jones wears dresses from Target, keeps her five Grammies hidden in the closet of her East Village loft, and even claims that far from the serious, moody, sexy gal who struck paydirt with Come Away With Me, that she is really “silly and dorky.” Well, if making superstardom and the riches that follow seem like “aw, shucks, that’s not the real me,” then Norah Jones is both a savant and snazzy saleswoman on her new album, Feels Like Home.

The eight million - selling Come Away With Me was a freak accident of commerce and talent, a godsend of timing and good fortune that thrust its beautiful subject into the global spotlight that she wasn’t particularly fond of (she even refused to walk the red carpet at awards ceremonies). The album’s stunning cover photograph, a fleshy, fabulous focus of large lips, eyes, and sheen, certainly didn’t hurt sales, reflecting the public’s love of good looks on its pop stars. But Jones was much more than a pretty face. A fan of Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, she could also tickle the ivories to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts” or any number of classic jazz standards. While Come Away With Me charmed those in need of musical substance, something beyond plastic country or damaging hip-hop and rock, confused critics hoped they could bag an interview with the bashful star.

“I’m glad that people liked the last album,” Jones has said. “It was where I was at then, musically. But this is where I am now. A recording is for me like a snapshot.”

If Jones’ monster debut was a sleepy plaything, a mellow country jazz candy as warm as apple pie, Feels Like Home shows what can happen when true talent takes a calculated risk. Not that the album is that different, but Feels Like Home is sure to raise the pulse beyond the slow tempos and dreamy melodies of her debut. Recalling Come Away With Me only for Jones’ sultry voice, the album has its share of lovely throwaways balanced by a handful of glowing and excellently arranged songs. “Those Sweet Words,” “Carnival Town,” “The Prettiest Thing,” and “Sunrise” are graceful and relaxed, songs that almost stop time with rich vocal harmonies and surprisingly melodic - twists. Jones brought in country legend Dolly Parton for the bluegrass - tinged “Creepin’In.”

After Jones was invited to Nashville to sing with Dolly at the 2003 Country Music Awards, she decided to ask the singer for a favor: duet with her on the hoedown-inspired track. “We asked Dolly if she would like to sing on the album and she said yes,” Jones recalls. “We were so nervous when she came into the studio. She came in and sang her butt off. She sounds great.”

Jones plays electric piano throughout Feels Like Home, with swampy guitars and lazy backbeat drumming, creating a surreal, intimate concert infused with Jones’ occasional, multi-tracked vocals. Feels Like Home will leave you spent and sated, your taste for Norah Jones satisfied like a deluxe lick of sweet vanilla ice cream.

Feels Like Home
Blue Note

Modest Brilliance Norah Jones Feels Like Home

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