After Foreverly, the Everly Brothers side project she recorded with Billie Joe Armstrong, Jones is back with her first record of originals in four years and here the focus, not to mention the life experience in terms of both her hard-earned wisdom and songwriting smarts, has hit new heights.
This is the best Norah record in the 14 years since the debut. And it feels like a comeback record, one that circles back to many of the strengths present on that still-surprising, 18 million-selling debut. This is Norah, singer/songwriter, expert selector of tunes to cover, deceptively powerful singer, audibly confident leader not only of the musicians who play on these tracksa group that includes Wayne Shorter and Brian Bladebut also the direction of her career.
As for the covers, both sides of her musical interests find space. On the jazz side there’s a rich slow version of “Peace” by Horace Silver where she works her voice into a whispery, girlish mode and a serious, dark reading of Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)” with Shorter on soprano sax and Jones humming that works. Her pop/Americana side is here represented by Neil Young's “Don’t Be Denied,” done in an easygoing style, which, despite a brass section, remains solidly focused like most of the record on Jones' voice and piano. Her singing on this record is the best of her entire career.
And perhaps there’s a little nostalgia talking here but another easygoing number, this time her co-write with Sarah Oda, “Tragedy” sounds for all the world like a track off the debut. It's the most confident, hook-driven music she’s ever come up with. The same goes for driving “Flipside,” which benefits from Dr. Lonnie Smith on the B-3 and Jones righteous vocals. Having been staggered by the sudden celebrity that came with her knockout debut, Jones has finally found her footing, mostly via tunes she co-wrote as opposed to covers, and happily is relevant again.