It is not just the timbre of Norah Jones's voice that is mature beyond her 22 years. Her assured phrasing and precise time are more often found in older singers as well. She is instantly recognizable, blending shades of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone without sounding like anyone but herself. Any way you slice it, she is a singer to be reckoned with. Her readings of the Hank Williams classic "Cold Cold Heart" and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" alone are worth the price of the CD. Jones's own material, while not bad, pales a bit next to such masterpieces. They might have fared better had she and producer Arif Mardin opted for some livelier arrangements, taking better advantage of brilliant sidemen such as Bill Frisell, Kevin Breit, and Brian Blade; or if the tunes had simply been given less laconic performances. Jones has all the tools; what will come with experience and some careful listening to artists like J.J. Cale and Shirley Horn is the knack of remaining low-key without sounding sleepy--sometimes less is not, in fact, more. --Michael Ross
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