”The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain famously quipped. So too are reports of Norah Jones’ rock conversion. True, the Grammy-festooned pop-jazz chanteuse has largely forsaken her traditional post at the piano for a six-string on her fourth album (out Nov. 17), and she’s roped in a passel of collaborators (including Ryan Adams and frequent Beck sideman Smokey Hormel) not necessarily known for catering to the quiet-storm set. She’s also got a voice that seems made to jump genres: supple, mellifluous, effortlessly sexy. But even when Jones lets it rip, so to speak, as on The Fall‘s moderately rollicking saloon stomper ”It’s Gonna Be,” she remains, at heart, a girl gone mild.
Which is not to say she can’t rustle up ? a fire — just that it’s more candlelight than call-the-FDNY blaze. The rainy-day requiem ”Light as a Feather” and bluesy swooner ”I Wouldn’t Need You” exude an elegant sort of speakeasy allure, and studio pros like Hormel and drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) make it all run with the soothing sweep of a Swiss timepiece. Still, even her most upbeat numbers seem designed specifically to keep some choleric CEO’s high blood pressure in check. On the Wurlitzer-steeped lead single ”Chasing Pirates,” when she croons ”And I don’t know how, to slow it down/My mind’s racing,” it sounds not so much rushing as recumbent. One wishes that just once, Jones would goose her adult-contemporary golden-girl status — and let it race for real. B-
Download This: Listen to the song Chasing Pirates at last.fm