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Jones ‘Not Too Late’ with another great album

Michelle Fordice | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Norah Jones’ latest album, “Not Too Late,” preserves her beautiful and sultry sound even as she moved into new territory and composed or helped to compose all the songs on her album for the first time.

Jones doesn’t take too many musical chances – choosing instead to embellish and build upon what she has already established – but many of her lyrics are appealing and more personal than before.

Jones already has an impressive pedigree. Her debut album “Come Away With Me” won five awards at the 2003 Grammy’s, including “Record of the Year,” “Album of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” The song “Sunrise” on Jones’ second album, “Feels Like Home,” won the Grammy’s “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” in 2005. The same year she won “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” for her work with Ray Charles on the song “Here We Go Again.”

“Not Too Late” stands apart from previous albums because every included song was either written or co-written by Jones herself. While many of the songs maintain a similar feel and sound to those on her previous records, they all contain a little extra personality that is inspired from her own experiences.

As always, the character of Jones’ music is increased by her use of piano, electric guitar, organ, acoustic guitar and keyboard in addition to her singing. These touches make “Not Too Late” a strong next step in the continuing evolution of her music.

There are several stand-out songs on the album. “Wish I Could,” while light and smooth, is a reflective ballad full of longing and bittersweet memory. “Sinkin’ Soon” is a swinging, brassy tune that features an excellent trombone part by J. Walter Hawkes. The most energetic song on the album, “Sinkin’ Soon” has a refreshingly different sound. “Little Room” has a sweet sound and cheekily romantic lyrics that make it a fun addition. The titular song, “Not Too Late,” epitomizes Jones’ sound and theme – beautiful, sweet and strong, with a touch of melancholy and hope.

Backed by cello, bass and light electric guitar, Jones’ vocals on “Broken” are appropriately soft and slightly melancholy for the lyrics. “My Dear Country” is Jones’ first politically oriented song.

She delivers her point simply – a lilting parallel of piano and voice move into a short but beautiful instrumental solo before returning to the ivory keys. The message itself is a bit simplistic, but the appeal of the music makes up for it.

The strong and persistent flow of “Rosie’s Lullaby” reflects both the waves it illustrates and the yearning it describes. “Thinking About You” is a cheerful, if sedate, song that is pleasant to listen to.

Not every artist can make the transition from performing what they have been handed to what they have composed. But “Not Too Late” effectively blends what has made Norah Jones successful in the first place, her beautiful voice and playing, with her new creative attempts.

There are a few new sounds on “Not Too Late,” but most of Jones’ new expression comes from the use of songs she has composed – an innovation that is something to look forward to from her.