Norah Jones

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

Artist’s Choice: Music That Matters to Her

Hear Music

When I was a kid and a fervent baseball fan, I could never understand the Rex Hudlers of the diamond world. He was the prototypical utility infielder: not much defense, always hit 5-10 homers a year, drove in about 40 runs a season. The perfect picture of mediocrity. I could never figure out why a guy with such a limp bat could linger around the majors for over 10 years. There just had to be an exciting prospect somewhere in the minors who could do better than that.

But then it was explained to me that guys like that stuck because you knew exactly what you got with them. They didn’t produce much, but they did it consistently. With a prospect you never knew what you’d get. And it was Rex’s predictability that helped managers figure out how to win games.

When Starbucks Coffee’s Hear Music label asked Norah Jones to conceive an Artist’s Choice compilation (following others by Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Diana Krall, and others), they were thinking Rex Hudler. By no means mediocre, Norah Jones’s following her stunning debut with a rewind, carbon copy sophomore effort told us what we can expect from the ingénue in the future.

This compilation’s supposed to give us a glimpse at Jones’s record collection and, by extension, her influences. And the pop/jazz diva doesn’t surprise anyone here. While I wasn’t expecting a Primus-NWA-John Cage mix, the predictability of this disc is a bit disappointing. Of course, Norah Jones likes Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Aretha, Willie Nelson and Nina Simone. Who doesn’t? The inclusion of Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” are the closest things to mild surprises you’re gonna get here. But there just has to be more, another level of complexity. Doesn’t there?

As I said, this compilation is far from mediocre. It’s fantastic. It couldn’t help being fantastic. It’s filled with damned near every legend of twentieth century popular music. It’s as safe and inoffensive as Jones’s music is, and it is about as surprising as a sunrise. You won’t at all be disappointed, unless you were looking for deeper insight into Jones herself. Hopefully, this isn’t as deep as it gets. She’s just got to be a heavier hitter than Rex.

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