Review Summary: Norah's first album of entirely self-composed songs, Not Too Late is an album of subtle, beautiful songs, but with little variety.Everybody has their fetishes, but I think mine is a bit different from the rest of the world. I tend to subconsciously be attracted to brunette piano players. I’m not sure why, but every girl I’ve ever been interested in was a brunette piano player.
Last week, EMI announced that Christmas had brought nasty surprises, so it ousted music supremo Alain Levy. The Guardian's report ran: "Now the fortunes of EMI, at least in the short term, appear to rest on the shoulders of Norah Jones. The third album from the daughter of Ravi Shankar is out this month." This is, of course, not a wise place to start a Jones review.
Recoils from fame usually aren't as subdued as Norah Jones' third album, Not Too Late, but such understatement is customary for this gentlest of singer/songwriters. Not Too Late may not be as barbed or alienating as either In Utero or Kid A -- it's not an ornery intensification of her sound nor a chilly exploration of its furthest limits -- but make no mistake, it is indeed a conscious abdication of her position as a comfortable coffeehouse crooner and a move toward art for art's sake. And, frankly, who can blame Jones for wanting to shake off the Starbucks stigmata? Although a large part of her appeal has always been that she sounds familiar, like a forgotten favorite from the early '70s, Jones is too young and too much of a New York bohemian to settle into a role as a nostalgia peddler, so it made sense that she started to stretch a little after her 2004 sophomore set, Feels Like Home, proved that her surprise blockbuster 2002 debut, Come Away with Me, was no fluke.
Norah Jones shouldn’t really be a star. Gifted but humble, beautiful but schlumpy, she’s a shy Manhattan boho who’d rather order takeout than strut a red carpet. In interviews, she seems mortified about her mega-success: 15 million records, eight Grammys, eternal rotation at baby showers and organic food co-ops. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that such a phenomenal, torchy, seen-it-all voice could belong to someone so low-key.
One could point to Norah Jones writing and recording a song titled "Wake Me Up" on Not Too Late, her third album, and go for the easy cheap shot. Sure, the 27-year-old former Texan made her name by recording two discs that are easy to doze off to and, this time, at first blush, things haven't changed all that much. It's her first effort without legendary producer Arif Mardin, who passed away in 2006, and left to their own devices, Jones and producer/boyfriend/co-writer Lee Alexander have moved away from jazz-lite into more traditonal singer-songwriter territory.