Norah Jones – [Album]

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It has been said that, after one has made his or her mark upon the world, all that can be done thereafter is either live up to it or try to live it down – depending on the impact that said mark made. In Norah Jones' case, she actually made her mark on her third album, Not Too Late, when the singer shucked all songwriting assistance and penned the whole record herself. Jones got personal lyrically and musically threw everything within reach at the wall to see what would stick and the results were an eclectic mix that refused to be pinned down. Because the songs were so strong and the sounds of them were so provocative, Not Too Late propelled Norah Jones into a whole new company and caliber of performers and the field became wide open to the singer's imagination. Norah Jones was free.

That kind of freedom can be terrifying though, and the singer must have felt it. Because she'd done everything herself, and that fact was made a matter of public domain right away, the pressure must have been on to produce a work that was comparable to follow up on the success.

The Fall both is and isn't comparable to Not Too Late for a variety of reasons.

Narrowing the scope of her ambition to focus strictly on a singer-songwriter-ly brand of rhythm and blues, The Fall presents to portrait of a very vulnerable Norah Jones – although she doesn't hide behind her piano at all during the album's run-time. Rather, the singer looks to the careers of similarly bent singers like Carole King, Linda Ronstadt and Rosanne Cash for inspiration as, with a broken heart, Jones explains her situation and desperation with all the love she has left in her. There are no great big Top 40 mainstays among the thirteen songs that comprise The Fall in the modern state of radio (although it would have been a revered release in 1974) which is a decidedly risky proposition for a pop singer of any stripe but, for those that are willing to hunt down the album for interest's sake, it yields untold treasures of heartfelt torment. Songs including “Chasing Pirates,” “Light As A Feather,” “It's Gonna Be” and “You've Ruined Me” all invoke the image of a miserably abandoned singer left all on her own in a place she knows well, but still feels strange. Virtually near tears (but not allowing herself to show it) this normally powerful soul singer whispers lines like, “When will I ever learn? If I wait, it doesn't seem like you will return” (from “Waiting”) almost to herself; not exactly sure if she wants to even be saying so much because, when she does, then it will be out there – known. It's a woeful but warm blanket that Jones wraps herself in here, but that doesn't mean she's comfortable and the absence of piano from the album seems to further drive that point; there's nothing for the singer to fall back on or behind.

Even in that discomfort though, listeners will find it very easy to love The Fall. In spite of the singer's obvious hesitation, there is beauty and sweetness in Jones' timbres as well as the fact that at no point does she really begin finger-pointing or blame-laying for her state; there's only despair, a sense of lovelessness and resignation in Jones' tone that says she's taking heartache as gospel. As the record begins to spiral into whimsy and shock with "Tell Yer Mama" and the stunted piano of "Man Of The Hour," it's actually worrisome to think that Norah Jones might be falling apart. While this album is a very engaging and fascinating and beautiful listen, fans will find themselves hoping by the end that Jones finds something to smile about; while she's in a class unto herself where modern blues is concerned, Norah Jones needs a silver lining for these clouds.


Norah Jones – 'Chasing Pirates' – The Fall


The Fall
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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