In February 2002, an unknown twenty-two-year-old torch singer released her debut on a modest jazz label. Two years, eight Grammys and 8 million records later, Norah Jones returns with Feels Like Home, another collection of jazz-tinged originals and covers propelled by elegant arrangements and Jones’ rich-beyond-her-years vocals. The album is due out February 10th on Blue Note Records.
Meanwhile, Jones’ debut, Come Away With Me, maintains its unprecedented grip on the pop charts; as of January 17th, the album had been on the Billboard charts for ninety-seven weeks — a feat that’s even more stunning considering the lack of pop-star hype surrounding Jones and the fact that only one song on the album, “Don’t Know Why,” has received major airplay.
Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall confesses surprise at Jones’ endurance. Though some have posited that a post-September 11th desire for soothing music figured into Jones’ appeal, Lundvall says, “I don’t buy that. I just know it’s lucky when you hear someone who sounds like no one else.”
Jones chuckles when asked about the pressures of following up such a monster debut. “I want people to like it, but I don’t expect it to do as well as the last one,” she says. “That was kind of freaky.”
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Work on the new album began in upstate New York last spring. The label had been hoping for a Christmas release, but Jones spent the summer touring and wanted to rework a number of song arrangements, so the band returned to the studio in the fall. Fans of Come Away With Me will not find a radical departure on Feels Like Home, which kicks off with the upbeat ballad “Sunrise” and features covers of songs by Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt. There’s also a country romp with Dolly Parton called “Creepin’ In” and a gorgeous reworking of the Duke Ellington composition “Melancholia,” which Jones has added lyrics to and retitled “Don’t Miss You at All.”
“I know the bigwigs hope for a lot of money and sales, but that’s their job,” Jones says. “I don’t want the label to take out an ad in every paper. People get sick of being hit over the head by stuff.
“Some of my favorite records aren’t necessarily people’s first or second — it’ll be their tenth,” she adds. “This isn’t supposed to be some kind of life-changing thing. It’s just music.”