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The Fall

Norah Jones
BLUE NOTE

Taking yet another step to de-emphasize the piano balladry that made her a star right out of the starting gate, Jones now assembles texture pieces where there’s not much to distinguish the chukka-chukka electric guitars from the keyboard layers. Opener “Chasing Pirates” has a nice hook, and Jones’s voice ascends it beautifully. But the lyric doesn’t cohere — and even a song about a wandering mind has to eventually find its footing. Ryan Adams and Will Sheff contributed to the songwriting, but the oases of engaging lyric (“Young Blood”) or tune (“It’s Gonna Be”) is found only by wandering through a lot that is pleasantly produced — but parched for inspiration. The star musicians here (Marc Ribot?!) underplay so that it seems they could almost be replaced by second-stringers. But that “almost” is important: Only the most skilled hands can bring out the modulations in character from such modest material. Thank goodness they were here to salvage this slight diversion.