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Norah Jones 

Feels Like Home (Blue Note)

Norah Jones's sophomore effort is better than Come Away With Me, her gazillion-selling 2002 debut. But like that crossover smash, Feels Like Home also suffers from excessive mid-tempo pacing and is hard to categorize. Jones seems to be edging here toward rhythm 'n' blues, her natural setting; there are tunes that imply it beautifully.

Where Come Away was jazz-flecked, Home trades in blues and a dab of country. It doesn't kick in until Townes Van Zandt's "Be Here to Love Me," a beautiful ballad sparked by Garth Hudson's rich organ and Andrew Borger's drumming. "Creepin' In," a goofy, upbeat tune by Jones's boyfriend, bassist Lee Alexander, follows. The ebullient Dolly Parton gives it welcome life, and its bluegrass flavoring begins to add color to an album that is fairly monochromatic up to that point.

After that, the album becomes more organic, as Jones explores dappled blues ("Toes"), the nuclear family (Kevin Breit's "Humble Me"), and the difficulty of finding oneself, in the loping Tom Waits tune, "The Long Way Home."

Where Come Away seemed to diminish with each listen, Home does the opposite: It grows on you. It's textured, nuanced, and comfortable, and even if Jones doesn't stretch as much as she could, it's progressive. A little more restlessness, a little more sweat -- damn, Jones and her boys sound so relaxed with each other you could nod off to this -- and Home would hook even harder.

More by Carlo Wolff

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