Norah Jones

SXSW Records

Phases and Stages

Norah Jones

Come Away With Me (Blue Note)

Norah Jones is the big buzz of the moment. She's already appeared on Jay Leno and other late-night TV shows, and this new debut album is quickly being added to radio playlists all over the country. Although she records for Blue Note, the world's preeminent jazz label, you really couldn't call this a jazz album. Sure, there are a few invisible jazz musicians in tow, and enough understated jazz sensibilities throughout to warrant the airplay it's starting to pick up on jazz radio, but this is, plain and simple, a damn good crossover pop album with Triple A written all over it. There's a seductive quality to the simple yet sophisticated and intimate ambience Jones creates with this music. Her pleasing, soulful, and sometimes rueful voice has been described as "honey and smoke," and rightly so. Along with the spare arrangements and subtle, mostly string accompaniment, the Texas-schooled Jones sounds in many ways like a white Cassandra Wilson. She does a few nice covers of Hank Williams, J.D. Loudermilk, and Hoagy Carmichael, but the strength of the album lies in the original material written by Jones and her musicians. Ironically, should this album prove to be a commercial success, Jones will no doubt move on to more lavishly produced projects, including the obligatory orchestrations and sugary string sections that await pop stardom. This gem of this debut may well prove to be the purest and most unpretentious display of her considerable talent. (Thursday, March 14, Clay Pit, midnight)

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