Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Feels Like Home

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Light the candles, stoke the fireplace and pour us some wine, honey. The new Norah Jones CD is out.

This sophomore effort carries a big risk for the darling of the adult pop/jazz crowd. Albums that follow recordings as successful as her debut can send an artist spinning toward irrelevance if they’re deemed inferior to their previous work. (If you don’t believe me, ask Peter Frampton.)

But I don’t think that’s going to happen here. Feels Like Home doesn’t offer anything revolutionary or evolutionary, but it does offer tasteful, tuneful songs by a woman with a deft touch on the keyboards, a remarkable voice and a sympathetic band. Old fans will be pleased, as will radio programmers.

The country influences found on her first disc are found again on her cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Be Here to Love Me,” with Garth Hudson offering beautiful accordion fills. The next track, “Creepin’ In,” features Dolly Parton’s high, lonesome soprano as a sort of co-lead vocal, which works beautifully. And the arrangement of Tom Waits’ “The Long Way Home” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Johnny Cash record.

There’s a touch of the blues in the funky drums of Levon Helm and Tony Scherr’s guitar on the best track, “What Am I to You?” Jazzheads get a surprise on the album’s closing track, “Don’t Miss You At All,” where Jones adds lyrics to portions of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia.” And throughout the record, there are lovely atmospheric tastes of longing and regret — not enough to really hurt, but just enough to make you wonder what might have been.

So will this disc sell like the first one? Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not. What matters is it’s good — very good. Pour us another glass of wine, hon, and move a little closer. I feel a snuggle coming on.

E-mail Vic Doucette at letters@metrotimes.com.

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