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Come Away With Me

Blue Note Records

   Come Away With Me is an instant classic. Mark my words. At next year's Grammy Awards, Norah Jones has a lock on best new artist. Barring something truly exceptional, she’s probably destined for album of the year as well. She's everything Alicia Keys' is supposed to be...and infinitely more. This stunning debut is a pop album on a jazz label with strong country leanings. It's easy to see why both Prince and Willie Nelson are already lining up to sing her praises along with their invitations for her to perform live with them. Norah is a natural. Just listen to the first single, "Don't Know Why." With a torchy vibe and clear, whispering melody, this buzz bin offering actually lives up to the hype. In fact, it surpasses it. Accompanying her voice is her own piano work which trickles through the songs like a delicate summer rain. The band is perfect as well. Jesse Harris' stellar guitar work is tasteful, understated and always exactly what the song needs. Bassist Lee Alexander is just as vital. Listen as the bassist lends a Peggy Lee "Fever" vibe to Norah's take on Hank William's "Cold Cold Heart" that turns the song on its ear with ease and confidence. The best cover here is of J.D. Loudermilk's "Turn Me On." Hints of Otis Redding and Aretha's soul are measured out with a dose of Nina Simone to create a sexy blues/pop hybrid that stands so far above the shoulders of what's popular right now that it seems a complete anomaly. Luckily, the new songs are almost as good. "I've Got To See You Again" is a borderline obsessive love song that bleeds mystery and intrigue to the point of near danger.  "Painter Song," with its accordion and slight European flavor, is destined for piano bars as a future standard. The bulk of the fresh tracks were written by Norah's bandmates, but don't think that she isn't capable of doing the job herself. "Come Away With Me" is a gorgeous self-penned number dripping with romance. It's luxurious enough to be described as lush, but is still stripped down enough to be honest. Basically, this record doesn't have a single dud. What a rare achievement. The last time a genre-shunning album of this power was released was kd lang's Ingenue from ten years ago. Norah Jones' Come Away With Me would have been a smash back in '92 or in 1942. It's that timeless. Don't let this one get past you. Get it now. (1750 North Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028)

Chris McKay/concertshots.com