Timing is everything in pop music—just ask Norah Jones, whose debut album, Come Away With Me, came out in early 2002 with a sound that seemed just right for those post-9/11 days: warm and soothing. The album went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and swept the next Grammy Awards. The seismic success was overwhelming for the modest young Texan, who said at the time: “I felt like I went to someone else’s birthday party and ate all their cake.”
To her credit, Norah—later revealed to be the daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar—avoided the hype and continued to make honest, low-key music that proved that sometimes less really is more. Her second album, Feels Like Home, moved ever so slightly away from jazz and into country music, while Not Too Late added cellos and horns and gently tackled political topics.
Norah is now 30 and the time seems right for greater experimentation. Her new album, The Fall, finds her collaborating with alt-country singer Ryan Adams, indie rocker Will Sheff, of Okkervil River, and a host of eclectic session players. The sensual ache of her voice remains, but guitar (and sometimes organ) has replaced piano as her instrument of choice on dreamy songs like “Chasing Pirates” and “I Wouldn’t Need You.” Norah makes her most surprising moves with the quirky, Tom Waits-like “Tell Yer Mama” and “It’s Gonna Be,” a fuzzed-out boogie on which the usually restrained musician actually lets loose. Rock on, Norah.