By Ken Clarke
Norah Jones is playing it much too safe on her latest release, Not Too Late. While all of the songs are beautifully sung, there’s only one track that stands out and begs to be remembered.
Fortunately, there are tiny intricacies sprinkled here and there that aren’t necessarily apparent on the first listen. Further visits reveal minimal twists and turns, but are so subtle you have to pay close attention.
The most intrepid and enjoyable number on the disc is “Sinking Soon,” a Tom Waits/Kurt Weill-styled arrangement featuring Jones in sultry-vamp mode. The jazzy trombone, twangy guitjo and Jones’ own piano tinklings add to a hazy, 1930s-nightclub ambience. It’s just too bad there aren’t more tracks that wander off the beaten path.
Jones reveals a political stance with the tongue-in-cheek “My Dear Country.” On this relaxed, piano-based ode to George W., she sings “Who knows, maybe the plans will change / Who knows, maybe he’s not deranged.” Besides its bitter political analysis, the song is also one of Jones’ more musically sophisticated offerings on the disc.
Unfortunately, Not Too Late is simply a nice, overly-easy listen with little or no surprises. Perhaps the overall description of the disc is best summed up in one of Jones’ own lyrics, “Wake me up when it’s over / Wake me up when it’s done.”