Norah JonesStarbucks, Friday 15 You couldn't ask for someone more unpretentious than Norah Jones. Blending right in with the relaxed, sun-drenched crowd outside of the Starbucks behind Tower Records as she wandered around virtually unnoticed prior to her set, you wouldn't suspect she's been one of this week's most talked-about SXSW artists. Sitting down at the electric piano, her long, dark hair blowing in the mild breeze, she slid confidently into "Turn Me On," one of the standout tunes on her Blue Note debut, Come Away With Me. Even more so than on her album, Jones' voice is so pure and beautiful that she instantly commands everyone's rapt attention to where there's sudden silence in the ranks. Simplicity is the name of the game with Jones. Backed by stand-up bassman Lee Alexander and acoustic/electric guitarist Adam Levy, musicians both from the album, her sound is clear and uncluttered, with a relaxed blues/jazz/gospel feel whose passion simmers just below the surface. Levy added some tasteful licks that where a model of restraint. Jones' eight-song, 30-minute set was culled almost exclusively from her new album, the exception being a soulful reading of the Band's "Bessie Smith." The feeling was palpable that this relatively small crowd of a couple hundred people was witnessing something special, perhaps getting their first glimpse of an exceptional singer about to make some waves. No one knows what the future holds, but for now, the unpretentious music and style of Norah Jones appears to be striking the right chords.
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