CD Stock: Blue Note Records B00018D44U
...crosses back and forth over the line between sedate and sensuous country western and melodic, torchy, ingénue jazz the same way cross-dressing k.d. lang does in Drag. The result is a modern musical enigma. The deliciously strong, yet still youthfully gentle, voice is back. The toe-tapping, catchy lyrics are not.
This proves my point about album sequels. It is hard to craft a thoughtful rejoinder to a megahit when the artistic debutante is touring to support the block-buster sales of the debut album. The dirty little secret of the record biz is that sequels are often hastily cobbled together from previously existing -- and weaker -- material while the artist is hard at work finally cashing in on their long sought fame. It is only when the artist can pause and reflect on the road to riches that new, refreshing material is created. It is the sequel to the sequel that loyal fans await. It is the sequel to the sequel that brings more evidence of the artist's capabilities.
The delicate phrasing, at times as deliberately teasing as piano plinkings, is still there. Jones doesn't leave the intimate jazz setting, even if she indulges in jarring country-western arrangements and simplistic lyrics:
Yet little on this rejoinder grabs like the first chart topper. Had this second effort come first, there would be no Norah Jones in the Billboard spotlights. For super fans -- count me as one -- this is wonderfully more of the weakest stuff. For newcomers, skip this selection, get the incredible first disc or heavy vinyl album (see our music review archives) instead.
Feels Like Home is different. Many people will prefer this gentler CD to the first, more soft-rock version. It is solidly good. It is, the New York Times reports, "full of a tasteful quiet." Yet, Jones is still, the Times says, "hiding out in work that's so low-key, it verges on the studied."
For which, I take issue. It is "the studied" that brings such a young and strong talent balancing along the same Patsy Cline "country-politan" line between country western and jazz as k.d. lang.
If you love the last few sultry albums of the k.d. lang, the deliberate showiness of Diana Krall, or Patricia Barber, you will at least like this one.