Just In the Nick of Time

With two multi-platinum albums and eight Grammys (11 if you count the three won by her previous records and not her directly), Norah Jones is the darling of the adult-contemporary genre. Now, three years after her last release, Jones is back with Not Too Late, and is ready to prove that she still has what it takes to win over listeners.

Jones returns with the same jazzy feel she offered on her breakout album, Come Away With Me, but with just a bit more of a country twang. Not only has she tweaked her sound, but Jones also had a hand in writing or co-writing every song on the album (13 in total, more than she wrote on both previous albums combined). While she does not quite recreate the hook of “Don’t Know Why” that made her a star, her attempts, while quirky and humble, are sure to impress.

“My Dear Country” sees Jones trying her hand at political songwriting. The stark, mournful tune will surely throw listeners for a loop, used to sweeter fare from the crooner, but it will take a few listens to get to her message. Most notably, Jones refers to George W. Bush as “the one we hate,” something that passes too quickly to be caught on first spin.

Jones also tackles love and loss, specifically the love and loss of the American military men sent off to fight a war. “Wish I Could” tells a tale of a friend who misses her Iraq-bound lover, not knowing that Jones also had a relationship with the soldier. The love affair is revisited with “Thinking About You,” the first single off the new release. A bitter-sweet love song, the only hint that it’s a continuation of the album’s opening track is the line “when you sail across the ocean waters, and you reach the other side,” a possible allusion to the soldier’s trek to the Middle East.

Though Jones tackles darker topics on this album, and changes her usual award-winning formula, Not Too Late still has some of the same hallmarks of her previous releases.

Though tackling the topic of war, Jones maintains her sweet demeanor, with the offering coming off as just another of her mellow tunes on the first listen. Other tracks stray from this new serious side and return the listener to a simpler time, a time when Jones sang only jazzy ballads. “The Sun Doesn’t Like You,” “Thinking About You,” and “Wake Me Up,” would all fit well with her previous album, Feels Like Home, and “Thinking About You” might even feel at home among the offerings from her debut.

With just a few rough spots (“Sinkin’ Soon,” though an amazing song, doesn’t quite fit with the other tracks), Jones’ Not Too Late is, overall, an amazing disc. Fans will surely love her newest album, and her deviation from formula is sure to catch the attention of others, maybe even helping her add to her already large fan-base.