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Not Too Late

Not Too Late

by Norah Jones

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Most artists who attain life-altering success right off the bat end up getting intoxicated by the sweet smell of success. Norah Jones, however, has steadfastly followed a much rarer, headier scent since her breakthrough -- that of freedom and artistic expression. On this, her third solo offering, she continues this pursuit, though she is never guilty of experimenting


Most artists who attain life-altering success right off the bat end up getting intoxicated by the sweet smell of success. Norah Jones, however, has steadfastly followed a much rarer, headier scent since her breakthrough -- that of freedom and artistic expression. On this, her third solo offering, she continues this pursuit, though she is never guilty of experimenting just for the sake of doing so. Not Too Late is the first disc on which Jones wrote all the material herself, and the album retains the warmth and intimacy of her past discs while couching them in a newfound soulfulness -- a tone that's carried by both her writing and her arrangements, which rely more on organ, brass, and other accoutrements than simple piano-bass-drum constructions. Horns figure prominently in the appeal of "Thinking About You," one of many tracks that find Jones getting in touch with her inner Dusty Springfield. That slow-burning smokiness -- redolent of the classic Dusty in Memphis -- is but one of the hues that Jones applies here. She traipses through some brightly colored country tones -- informed, perhaps, by her moonlighting in the hootenanny-friendly Little Willies -- on the playful "Little Room" before taking those homespun chords in a darker direction on "My Dear Country," a surprisingly hard-edged look at the current political landscape. Jones and company get even more musically adventurous, bending the second-line rhythms of the Crescent City-flavored "Sinkin' Soon" into a gnarled shape that would no doubt elicit a knowing smile from Tom Waits. Even when she's at her edgiest, however, Jones guilelessly sprinkles a smidgen of sugar into the mix -- in the form of her warm, welcoming voice, an instrument that makes just about everything go down in the most delightful way.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Recoils from fame usually aren't as subdued as Norah Jones' third album, Not Too Late, but such understatement is customary for this gentlest of singer/songwriters. Not Too Late may not be as barbed or alienating as either In Utero or Kid A -- it's not an ornery intensification of her sound nor a chilly exploration of its furthest limits -- but make no mistake, it is indeed a conscious abdication of her position as a comfortable coffeehouse crooner and a move toward art for art's sake. And, frankly, who can blame Jones for wanting to shake off the Starbucks stigmata? Although a large part of her appeal has always been that she sounds familiar, like a forgotten favorite from the early '70s, Jones is too young and too much of a New York bohemian to settle into a role as a nostalgia peddler, so it made sense that she started to stretch a little after her 2004 sophomore set, Feels Like Home, proved that her surprise blockbuster 2002 debut, Come Away with Me, was no fluke. First, there was the cabaret country of her Little Willies side band, then there was her appearance on gonzo art rocker Mike Patton's Peeping Tom project, and finally there's this hushed record, her first containing nothing but original compositions. It's also her first album recorded without legendary producer Arif Mardin, who helmed her first two albums, giving them a warm, burnished feel that was nearly as pivotal to Jones' success has her sweet, languid voice. Mardin died in the summer of 2006, and in his absence, Jones recorded Not Too Late at the home studio she shares with her collaborator, bassist and boyfriend Lee Alexander. Although it shares many of the same sonic characteristics as Jones' first two albums, Not Too Late boasts many subtle differences that add up to a distinctly different aesthetic. Jones and Alexander have stripped Norah's music to its core. Gone are any covers of pop standards, gone are the studio pros, gone is the enveloping lushness that made Come Away with Me so easy to embrace, something that Not Too Late is most decidedly not. While this might not have the rough edges of a four-track demo, Not Too Late is most certainly music that was made at home with little or no consideration of an audience much larger than Jones and Alexander. It's spare, sometimes skeletal, often sleepy and lackadaisical, wandering from tunes plucked out on acoustic guitars and pianos to those with richer full-band arrangements. Norah Jones has never exactly been lively -- part of her charm was her sultry slowness, ideal for both Sunday afternoons and late nights -- but the atmosphere here is stultifying even if it's not exactly unpleasant. After all, unpleasantness seems to run contrary to Jones' nature, and even if she dabbles in Tom Waits-ian carnivalesque stomps ("Sinkin' Soon") or tentatively stabs at politics ("My Dear Country"), it never feels out of place; often, the shift is so subtle that it's hard to notice. That subtlety is the biggest Achilles' heel on Not Too Late, as it manifests itself in songs that aren't particularly distinctive or performances that are particularly varied. There are exceptions to the rule and they all arrive with full-band arrangements, whether it's the lazy jazz shuffle of "Until the End," the country-tinged "Be My Somebody," or the wonderful laid-back soul of "Thinking About You." These are songs that not only sound full but they sound complete, songs that have a purposeful flow and are memorable for both their melody and sentiment. They would have been standouts on Feels Like Home, but here they are even more distinctive because the rest of the record plays like a sketchbook, capturing Jones and Alexander figuring out how to move forward after such great success. Instead of being the end result of those experiments, the completed painting after the sketch, Not Too Late captures their process, which is interesting if not quite compelling. But its very release is a clear statement of artistic purpose for Jones: its ragged, unfinished nature illustrates that she's more interested in pursuing her art than recycling Come Away with Me, and if this third album isn't as satisfying as that debut, it nevertheless is a welcome transitional effort that proves her artistic heart is in the right place.
Boston Globe - Joan Anderman
Her fans will be thoroughly gratified by every lovely note on Jones's third album.... The title track captures the quintessence of the 27-year-old singer, pianist, and composer's gift: Delicate and unsentimental, produced (along with the rest of the album) with blessed understatement.
Los Angeles Times - Richard Cromelin
There's no question that Norah Jones has the talent and the taste to reign indefinitely as the soothing seductress of adult pop.
Chicago Tribune - Greg Kot
Jones' voice remains a smooth purr even when she's agitated, and her touch on the piano is so light that the notes dissolve almost the instant she plays them.

Product Details

Release Date:
Blue Note Records

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Norah Jones   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Vocals,Mellotron,Pump Organ,Wurlitzer
Larry Goldings   Organ,Hammond Organ
Paul Bryan   Keyboards
Richard Julian   Vocals
Julia Kent   Cello,Pizzicato
Robbie McIntosh   Electric Guitar
Tony Mason   Drums
Tony Scherr   Electric Guitar
Rob Sudduth   Tenor Saxophone
Kevin Breit   Mandolin
Jesse Harris   Acoustic Guitar,Guitjo
Bill McHenry   Tenor Saxophone
Devin Greenwood   Hammond Organ
Chuck MacKinnon   Trumpet
Andrew Borger   Cymbals,Drums,Marimbas,Pans,Pots
J. Walter Hawkes   Trombone
Jose Davila   Tuba
M. Ward   Vocals
Adam Levy   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Daru Oda   Vocals,Human Whistle
Jeffrey Zeigler   Cello
Lee Alexander   Bass,Bowed Bass,Lap Steel Guitar,Pizzicato

Technical Credits

Tom Schick   Engineer
Carla Leighton   Art Direction
Ilhan Ersahin   Composer
Norah Jones   Composer
Daru Oda   Composer
Melanie Little Gomez   Paintings
Lee Alexander   Composer,Producer

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