Album: Norah Jones, The Fall (Blue Note)

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The Independent Culture

Parts of Norah Jones's 2007 album Not Too Late sounded rather like a scrubbed-up, housetrained Tom Waits, so it's no surprise that for this follow-up, she enlisted the services of producer Jacquire King in an attempt to obtain the "balance between beautiful and rough" that he secured for Waits's Mule Variations.

To help achieve that effect, they've drafted in a session crew that includes drummers James Gadson (Bill Withers, Al Green) and Joey Waronker (REM) and guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits) and Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash); but the dominant instrument here is Jones's own guitar, a quivering vibrato throb at the heart of most of these tracks. Otherwise, the significant impression is of heavier drums behind her warm, lazy croon, setting up the chugging grooves of "Young Blood" and "Chasing Pirates" and the boogie swing of "It's Gonna Be". The best tracks come towards the album's end, with the shimmering guitar haze hanging around the Johnny Cash rhythm of "Tell Your Mama", the combination of acoustic picking an gentle piano chords on the lullaby ballad "December" and the downhome "Man of the Hour", a song to her dog in which she admits, "I can't choose between a vegan and a pothead, so I chose you".

Download this Tell Your Mama; Man of the Hour; Chasing Pirates