Feels Like Home (Blue Note)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Feb. 13, 2004
Norah JonesFeels Like Home (Blue Note) It will, too Feel Like Home even if the contractor cut corners. In this battered, wounded world, comfort cooing à la Norah Jones is a necessary carb. Which is why her '02 debut, Come Away With Me, while selling 8 million copies and reeling in an armload of Grammys, was greeted by a collective critical shrug: Most music writers are men. And it was hard for them not to be cynical about the Grapevine, Texas, native, clearly a pop singer, being signed to jazz wholesaler Blue Note. This couldn't be a case of Blue Note duplicating the success of rival Verve Records with Diana Krall, another piano bar Cinderella story with a voice to die for? Perish the thought. Whatever the case, material is everything to a chanteuse, and in contrast to Come Away With Me, the problem here is that Jones wrote/co-wrote almost half of the Home's 13 tracks. "Sunrise," the blushing opener, is a quilted classic, but there isn't another until three-quarters of the way in, the delicious "Toes," and then the open carriage ride of the title track. Townes Van Zandt makes a welcome appearance in his "Be Here to Love Me," as does Duke Ellington, to whose "Melancholia" Jones has added lyrics, a lovely lilt, and a new title, "Don't Miss You at All." Atlantic Records producer/arranging genius Arif Mardin is back for a second go-round, and Feels Like Home is nothing if not serene. And more than a little numb, which given Jones' runaway celebrity, isn't surprising. This might be: Given Jones' knack for Hank Williams, a Townes cover here, plus the titular duet with Dolly Parton, the musing of a veteran jazzer upon hearing Jones bears the stamp of prescience: "This woman wants to be a country singer." Get Ray Charles on the horn.