“Sweet,” said my friend Henry Boy, 20 years ago, “but she had no edge.” I chuckled, agreeing. We were young(er) and (in)secure in our hipness. Twenty years later, I haven’t seen Henry Boy in something like 13 years (hope he’s okay) and I’m old, and tired, and fat, and gray, and sufficiently edgeless that I have trouble putting on the new Iron Maiden. I’m ready to receive Come Away with Me in gratitude.
Headphones help. Ear-close and personal, I dig how Norah Jones always came on subtle and seductive: no pangs, not sinister, not vengeful, but a healthy lust (“to not touch your skin is not why I sing,” dragged out, wavering, punctuated with puffs around the vowels), reminding you healthy lust existed and made its merry way in the world. Always a considerably more inspired singer than songwriter (though 20 years later she’s winched that gap narrower), Jones wisely let bandmates and reliable pop/jazz/country deep cuts fill that gap. Hank Sr.’s “Cold Cold Heart” feels like it was waiting for her to touch it. “I’ve Got to See You Again” (quoted above and written by Jones’ guitarist Jesse Harris) pulls in lap dances, May-December romances, and the urgency of the erotic dream in action—all in words of no more than two syllables.
The extra two discs give you demos and early runthroughs amounting to the album twice over again, with some surprises. You’ll hear Indian instruments, hinting at the Indian father she usually didn’t discuss. You’ll hear “Walking My Baby Back Home,” pronouns switched, enunciation fighting leaps over the beat to what happens when she gets baby back home. Edgy? Does a garden need edges to sprout fecund?
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