Release Date: 02.10.04
Record label: Blue Note
Genre(s): Classical, Jazz
Honest To Her Music
by: bill aicher
More than likely, the sudden blast to the forefront of the entire music industry was not something Norah Jones was expecting, less likely really even wanted with her debut album, Come Away With Me. Her sweep of the 45th Annual Grammy Awards placed her in a much brighter spotlight than Come Away With Me really lent itself to; who would have expected country/jazz/pop album featuring a single released years before by one of her band members would have been all the rage?
And, more than likely, it was this thrust to the spotlight that influenced the end result of her sophomore release, Feels Like Home. Before even opening the disc, it's subtly apparent that Feels Like Home will inevitably find Jones (subconsciously or not) shying away from the spotlight she unexpectedly occupied from her debut's success. On the back cover the album is billed as "Norah Jones with The Handsome Band and Special Guests" whereas on Come Away With Me her backing band was merely an afterthought tucked away to liner note stardom. Then there's the photograph "taped" to the back cover featuring Jones's band with Jones herself tucked away in the background.
This concept of her music as the result of a group effort rather than a solo effort with a few studio musicians tossed in for good measure is noticeably clear in the album's music as well. Where Come Away With Me functioned primarily as a showcase for Jones vocals and piano - especially on songs like "Don't Know Why," "Painter's Song" and "The Nearness of You," Feels Like Home finds Jones piano taking a backseat, generally functioning as a part of the musical action rather than a central pivot. In fact, songs like the simple folk of "Humble Me" avoid piano altogether, with Jones simply adding a bit of pump organ to Kevin Breit's resonator guitar and Lee Alexander's bass.
Another major factor contributing to this change is the album's tendency to sway toward more country/folk territory. This penchant for country was hinted at earlier with her superb renditions of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart (Come Away With Me), "The Grass In Blue" (Just Because I'm a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton) and Waylon Jenning's "Wurlitzer Prize" (Lonesome, On'ry & Mean) but its realization on Feels Like Home is much more complete. An old-styled country swagger remake of Tom Waits' "The Long Way Home" is ample proof, but her duet with Dolly Parton on "Creepin' In" is where its made unmistakably clear.
In interviews conducted during the recording of Feels Like Home, Jones indicated her next work would have a funkier feel than Come Away With Me did. Well, "funky" for Jones is a bit different than it is for, say, George Clinton, but Feels Like Home is definitely more daring. Jones has found it within herself to make music that's genuinely beautiful, classic, and progressive. It's still a small change, but it's noticeable... and worthy of all the praise it's likely to receive. 10-Feb-2004 9:50 PM