Norah Jones 

Not Too Late (Blue Note)

Norah Jones is nice, mellow of voice, and just kittenish enough to titillate the jazzbos she pretends to represent. Crafting wistful and yearning tunes, her delivery is self-assured yet modest, like letting the listener in on deep secrets.

On Not Too Late, Jones' third album, cellos spell emotion, horns shadow rhythm & blues, and the rare drums suggest -- more than lay down -- a backbeat. Tempos, as usual, are resolutely mid, but this time out Jones varies her textures every so often: "Sinkin' Soon," a tune possibly about Katrina, exudes a New Orleans feel, complete with mandolin and guitjo. The political ambiguity continues with "Wish I Could," which might be about Iraq -- or war in general. Who knows? Jones is comfortably vague -- passive-aggressive enough not to offend anyone.

Beautifully produced by boyfriend and bassist Lee Alexander, Not Too Late glides by like a summer afternoon and, like its two predecessors, rarely ruffles the feathers. Just about everything is nice in Jones' subdued world, it seems -- even when she tackles war and homelessness.

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