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May 2004

Norah Jones
Feels Like Home
Blue Note Records

When Norah Jones' wildly anticipated Feels Like Home debuted atop the pop charts and set first week sales records, I heard a wonderfully curious comment about the album on a local Toronto news station. With seemingly no sense of irony, the reviewer enthused, "The celebrated jazz singer delivers another excellent selection of pop and country tunes."

Now, math has never been my strong suit, but if this is only Jones' second album and is being praised as another pop-country triumph, where and how does the "jazz singer" moniker fit?

Truth be told, it doesn't. Jones never was, never will be a jazz singer. Nor, to her credit, has she ever pretended to be. She's a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll and a whole lot folk. She's blessed with a glorious instrument that manages to simultaneously suggest Billie Holiday and Emmylou Harris, and as both singer and songwriter she knows her way around a Joni Mitchell-esque ballad. Plus, she has a very savvy producer in Arif Mardin. Pair such assets with the tremendous, Grammy-fueled buzz that's surrounded her for nearly two years, and it would have been all but impossible for her sophomore disc not to be an out-of-the-park hit.

Still, there's something distinctly unfulfilling about the album. Considering the enormity of her God-given talent, it would be unfair to suggest that this empress has no clothes. No, the problem is that her outfits are all the same. The tracks on Feels Like Home are lovely, particularly the opening "Sunrise" and the Ellington-based closer "Don't Miss You at All." It is, however, virtually impossible, with a single exception, to tell one wistfully languid tune from the next.

Listening to Feels Like Home is like being wrapped in yards and yards of beige cashmere: cozy, warm and luxurious, but ultimately a tad boring. It's no wonder that the album's middle track, a duet by Jones and Dolly Parton on Lee Alexander's "Creepin' In" seems so refreshing. It's not a particularly great song, nor does it have much to say; but that sudden jolt of Parton energy does, at least, manage to prod you awake.

Originally published in May 2004
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