The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, February 13, 2004, Music

Norah Jones

Feels 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.


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