Norah Jones writes a lot about love on her new album The Fall. The last song on the record, “Man of the Hour,” is the most intimate, featuring only Jones’ vocals and piano. It’s a song about choice, who to live and love with when an ultimatum has been made. Jones’ preferred partner turns out to be none other than her dog. She sings “You never lie/and you don’t cheat/you don’t have baggage tied to your four feet.” The song ends with the dog’s barking reply, as if to say, I’m all yours, sweetie! The music suggests that the song is in jest, but after hearing the other dozen songs with their tales of love’s complexities, you never can tell.
Norah Jones built her career on mellow, adult oriented ballads that straddle pop and jazz. The Fall continues along the same line but with slightly altered directions in production and choice of featured instruments. Past albums have found Jones anchored at her piano but not so here. Most song feature Jones on acoustic and electric guitar. She continues to write with past collaborators, namely Jesse Harris and Richard Julien, but she also branches out to write with Ryan Adams on the moody “Light As a Feather.” Will Sheff of Okkervil River co-writes “I Wouldn’t Need You” and “Stuck.” Mike Martin offers his services on the spooky “Young Blood.”
Norah Jones deliberately chose to work with a new producer and musicians after finishing her 2007 world tour. The list is impressive and impressively different for her. Jacquire King’s former production duties have been with Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, but Jones chose him specifically for his work on Tom Wait’s Mule Variations. His approach to Jones'songs is to create a density of sound without allowing the music to becoming dark or brooding. He does this by focusing on the bass instruments and creating synthetic sound that mimic Theremins. The production is straight forward but comes across as sounding layered. The musicians, Marc Ribot, Joey Waronker, Lyle Workman, Smokey Hormel, to name a few, have played with musicians as diverse as Beck, Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Erykah Badu, and Al Green.
With this kind of backing support the only thing Jones needs to do is present the band with great songs. She does a nice job in mixing up her influences. Jazz, rock, folk and country can be heard weaving through the music. As for the lyrics, as I pointed out earlier, Jones writes about falling in love and the emotional upheaval that ensues. She also reveals a light, humorous touch from time to time. As for her singing, nothing can touch that sultry velvet voice of hers. Ms. Jones will have no trouble attracting the men – or dogs – of her dreams. The Fall will have no trouble attracting her fan base.