Norah Jones is still searching for her perpetual groove. Since garnering instant acclaim at the top of the jazz and pop charts with her multiplatinum debut album, Come Away With Me, Jones's forward momentum hasn't been all that successful. Though undeniably sensual and seductive, her second album, Feels Like Home, was generally perceived as a letdown, and several one-off singles haven't created a buzz either. So it's good to see that on her newest album, Not Too Late, Jones is taking more risks. This collection of songs veers from hazy lounge laments to the down-home sound she mastered with her beguiling cover of Hank Williams's classic "Cold Cold Heart" the first time out. Indeed her weary vocals are a perfect fit for the resignation-imbued tunes "Wish I Could" and "Little Room." Likewise the vamplike "Sinkin' Soon" summons the spirit of Bessie Smith via scat singing, barroom balladry, and muffled echoes of an earlier era. Unfortunately that's as good as it gets. The rest of the set drifts lazily along, doing little to distinguish one track from another. And though several songs bear messages of protest and outrage, Jones's hushed vocals aren't assertive enough to engage with that chorus of criticism leveled at the country's current administration. When, on the weary "Wake Me Up," she implores "Wake me up when it's over, wake me up when it's done," there's a better-than-average chance that listeners will feel so disconnected, they'll beg for the same.
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