November 12, 2009

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Norah Jones, The Fall
Blue Note Records, Nov. 17

After some time spent submerged with a few strange-bedfellow songwriting partners (Ryan Adams and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, for two), Norah Jones would appear no longer interested in being the Patsy Cline/Rickie Lee Jones hybrid of albums past. The untouchable, dandelion-seed-blowing asexual thing is gone, probably after a few too many bad flings, and in fact the Rhodes-driven kickoff track, “Chasing Pirates” — the lyrics of which betray a weariness with the stupid side of boys — is a shy chick’s “Like a Virgin” in rhythm, tone and attitude. Of course, she’s finally 30 now, and the clock doesn’t stay 9:15 forever anymore the way it did in “Sunrise,” but it could be said — and cynicism is part of my mission statement, remember — that she’s overcompensating here, posing as a world-weary Bonnie Raitt in “Even Though” and making nice with her daddy, Ravi Shankar, through the use of a glowering sitar in “Light as a Feather.” Nobody’s going to buy this for its psych-evaluation value, though, and if you’re part of the 99 percent of her fans simply wondering if The Fall is a soft, breezy and pretty evolutionary step, well yes, it is. AEWS