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Norah Jones 

Come Away With Me

Hannah Williams     

 

Easy listening is redefined in Norah Jones’s Come Away With Me as it illustrates her love, loss and introspective glances. A Texas native, Jones ventured off to NYC to indulge in the avant-garde singer-songwriter scene downtown and quickly found herself meeting with the head of Blue Note Records. It would be here in a meeting with Bruce Lundvall, that she would first encounter slight oppositional curiosity over her more fluid approach to jazz. However, this would not lead to a setback but rather stand as the great precipitous catalyst for her career. The climate of this album's release in February of 2002, in a freshly post 9/11 world created a vast opening for this record to stand as a unique pillar amongst the pensive artistic realm. The album's first track titled “Don’t Know Why” provides the first look into the genius of Jones’s ability to make this piece multidimensional. Through heavy standing bass lines, plunky keys dancing down scales, nostalgic arpeggiated guitar and hypnotic vocals; the template provided would be one with not much change. Attribute this sonic consistency throughout the album to acting as a binding agent of solidarity for those who sought a break from this inescapable new reality after tragedy. Providing proof of  her genre bending ability, Jones’ additions of not one but two country star renditions (Hank Williams and J.D.Loudermilk’s “Cold Cold Heart” and “Turn Me On”); The country element could have initially shocked listeners if not for Jones’ silky transitions and jazz-esque demeanor she created to relate with the other songs on this record.

 

The title track of this album, “Come Away With Me” offers the exact respite that many craved as Jones paints a very clear picture for consumers to dive into. “I wanna walk with you on a cloudy day. In fields where the yellow grass grows too high. So won’t you try to come. Come away with me…”. She is singing to a love asking them to escape with her away from people, their lies, come away to be loved unconditionally by her and so that she can receive the same. Jones’s songs by no means are simplistic in topic but her formula for presentation was gentle whereas others of the time may have been stylistically/lyrically abrasive after 9/11.

Her imagery throughout the album is not to be overlooked as in the song “One Flight Down” written by Jesse Harris, where the movement of sound is compared to drifting smoke and writes that reeds and brass have woven “leading into a single note”. Her poetic writing in congruence with her expert vocal engineering is also what creates such an inviting atmosphere. “If I was a painter. I would paint my reverie. If that's the only way for you to be with me” Lyrics like these metaphorical, symbolic and oozing landscape imagery add to this consistency in style that contributes directly to the nostalgia captured in songs like “Painter Song”. Kathryn Shackleton of BBC regarding “The Nearness of You”, “It's an intimate cocktail lounge portrait of the jazz standard, with a soulful edge; just Norah accompanying herself on piano - simple but tasteful”.  Jones’s voice throughout is so close and EQ’d perfectly that she never fades or is overwhelmed by the instrumentation but instead, she dances vocally with such cadence on piano riffs. It is so warm. It's simple but tasteful. She feels so close to us, making us feel all the more close to her work. Steady is her template, each song consists of strong jazz keys and some type of secondary melody on guitar with bass and always breezy open crash percussion. Hence why her stardom after 9/11 was imminent. 

 Arguably, one of the most remarkable reactions to a monstrosity that the world collectively mourned, was the sense of duty within many artists to directly give voice to their feelings, questions and troubling contemplations. Music became a forum, as I'm sure other art forms did, for the explicit retching of the nation's innermost feelings. However, the aforementioned move of referenced tragedy in art, is not what made this album a beacon slicing through fog. This album was impactful for the person who couldn't consume music after such an event, for the fan that didn't find solace in the Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow and Coldplays of the world. This album is as if Jones reached out and said “let me give you something, something of mine and it will be easy, light and digestible”. The constant reminder and inability of many to compartmentalize could have grown to be too much for some.  Jones, who favored piano, created three different versions of this album before the record was approved by Blue Note. Thankfully 20 years later in regards to previous versions drowning in guitar and the record's rejection Jones comments ,“I was kind of relieved because I also knew that it wasn't quite right” (NPR). What did work was her; more of her and less layers. That's why this record redefines easy listening. Though it can challenge us lyrically, it's not giving us more than we can handle or contemplate at one time sonically. There's no proof to this album being made as a response to 9/11 but there is no denying, one could turn this album on and forget about their grief, their strife and in doing so encounter therapeutic release as Jones whisks us away at the press of her fingers to a piano.  Her fusion of these smooth jazz concepts overlapping with bluegrass styles offer audiences a unique taste of lullabied twang, furthering her impact at the time and allowing her to take the industry by storm. 





 

Works Cited 

 

Powers, Ann, et al. “Norah Jones Reflects on 20 Years of ‘Come Away with Me.’” NPR, 28 June 2022, www.npr.org/2022/06/17/1105824361/norah-jones-reflects-on-20-years-of-come-away-with-me. 

Shackleton, Kathryn. “Music - Review of Norah Jones - Come Away With Me.” BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/rj9x/. Accessed 12 May 2023. 

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