- 17 Jun 20
She stepped out, she stepped in again.
This album wasn’t really meant to be. After touring her 2016 release Day Breaks Norah Jones turned her back on the traditional record-promote-tour-write more songs hoopla, uncertain of her future plans. But impromptu session collaborations, including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, lead organically to this welcome collection.
‘I’m Alive’ is actually a joint compositional venture with Tweedy whose dexterous guitars add welcome fresh colours to the Jones palette, while Jones herself sprinkles some life-affirming optimism while “the world implodes”. The contrasting melancholia on ‘Were You Watching?’ is reinforced by some Celtic-lite string playing under Jones’ provocative voice. The elegant strings on ‘How I Weep’ match the warmth of Jones’ flexible voice, and Brian Blade’s staccato drum adds a punch to the funk-lite ‘Flame Twin’ and its organ swelling out the tight band sound pushes Jones’ expressive vocal.
Sparseness adds graphically to the lyrical intent on the languid ‘Heartbroken, Day After’, and the smoothly-crafted harmonies on ‘To Live’ add to that song’s country feel, and there are more subtle touches to be had from the plaintive guitar on the sultry ‘Stumble On My Way’. Meanwhile Jones’ playing on ‘Heaven Above’, another Tweedy collaboration, has a gentle world-weariness that reflects the current global mood.
If there’s little to match the adventurous expansiveness of her ‘Just A Little Bit’ from Begin Again, there’s a warmth throughout Pick Me Up Off The Floor for a world that needs plenty right now. It would be a pity if Jones went down in infamy for her unrestrained early global success with 2002’s Come Away With Me sparking the abuse of the term jazz. For here Ms Jones, daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar, again proves herself an accomplished purveyor of sophisticated, jazz-tinged pop, and an artist always willing to step, albeit gingerly, outside her safety zone. But then quality is in her blood.
- Out now via Blue Note Records