Featuring Norah Jones

Featuring Norah Jones

“Come away with me,” NORAH JONES purred on her 2002 debut, and millions took her advice. Since then, two things have defined her albums: an instantly recognizable voice, even-tempered and rich in character, and an intractable penchant for understatement. Yet the Grapevine-raised singer now seems hemmed in by this alluring combination, a victim of her own success. Only 2009’s The Fall (by far Jones’s worst seller) hinted at a desire to break out of her snoozy musical ghetto. Which is why it’s so nice to hear her changing the formula on . . . FEATURING NORAH JONES (Blue Note). These collaborations (most previously released, though on other people’s records) find Jones not so much reinventing the wheel as drawing inspiration from other artists. It’s amazing how well her style fits into tracks as disparate as the hip-hop duo OutKast’s “Take Off Your Cool” (an acoustic, soulful wisp of a song with André Benjamin) and the country chestnut “Here We Go Again,” with Ray Charles (powerful, though Charles was near death). There are spooky tracks from M. Ward (a duet on “Blue Bayou”) and El Madmo (a side project for which Jones donned a blond wig for anonymity during live performances) and lapses too, ranging from the lackluster (a colorless guest turn by Ryan Adams) to the bizarre (a chemistry-free duet with Willie Nelson on “Baby It’s Cold Outside”). But sitting through these miscues is worth it for the chance to hear Jones try something new—even if her patented reserve keeps her from ever breaking a sweat.

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