Norah Jones Not Too Late

There must be something right with the world when a woman of substance like Norah Jones has yet to get sucked into the black hole of celebrity culture in order to maintain her status as a multi-million selling artist. Instead, she’s made — gasp! — a record that reflects a true creative maturation. With all of Not Too Late comprised of her own material for the first time, Jones seems determined to have this album firmly stake her claim amongst Americana heavyweights. In many ways, she’s successful. The sparse, haunting arrangements on the majority of songs strip away any of the obvious jazz and country influences on which Jones’s first two records heavily leaned in favour of close interplay with her small band, augmented by sympathetic horns and strings, at times. However, her voice remains the most provocative instrument, and its pure soulfulness is the perfect vehicle to get across the quiet introspection of "Thinking About You” and the surprisingly political "My Dear Country.” Will it be too much for the Starbucks crowd? Probably not, but Not Too Late is still a courageous record from an artist that all should embrace as a symbol of everything great about American music. (Blue Note)