Norah Jones continued to push against convention with The Fall

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You wonder now, years later, if the title of Norah Jones’ The Fall was a description of what she surmised would happen to her standing among her early fans – rather than referring to the current season.

Jones has always been more than a country-tinged jazz crooner, but she had previously chosen to reveal her other sides discreetly by appearing on records headlined by others (Peter Malick), participating in one-off bands (the Little Willies) or even leading a band incognito (El Madmo). 2007’s Not Too Late put everyone on notice that Norah Jones was spreading her artistic wings. By the time The Fall arrived on November 17, 2009, it would have been a shocker had she returned to the Come Away With Me blueprint. Instead, Jones completed a transformation she’s suggested for some time now.

At least on the surface, it had more in common than the tongue-in-cheek El Madmo than it did Feels Like Home – even though it’s a much more serious affair. That’s because the songs seemed more like they were composed on guitar than piano, even when the keyboards were driving them. The jazz of Norah Jones gets altogether ignored in favor of an indie singer-songwriter presentation, until the ninth track (“Back To Manhattan”). Meanwhile, the third one, “Light As A Feather,” was hardly the breezy Brazilian-flavored classic of Return To Forever – but the heavy-hearted alt-rock personality of its co-writer, Ryan Adams. She served up a few more left turns than before, like dropping an F-bomb on “Stuck,” and all the way to the charming, stripped-down “Makin’ Whoopie” sound-alike “Man Of The Hour.”

Produced by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse), Norah Jones’ The Fall had a somewhat scratchy and muddled sound that her smooth vocals clashes against. The contrast worked for the most part, because the distorted sound is not overly done. But there are times when a raspier voice might have worked better, and Jones couldn’t sing abrasively if she tried.

She deserves a tip of the hat for defying categorization while keeping the craftsmanship high, but the artistic high point reached on Not Too Late simply wasn’t been tested by The Fall. Like that last album, though, it made Norah Jones a more compelling and interesting artist than she was when she was racking up Grammys.

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