Norah Jones, “Day Breaks” (Blue Note Records)
Fourteen years later, we’re still a deeply polarized nation. Those who loved Norah Jones’ breakout debut album, “Come Away With Me,” will enjoy “Day Breaks.” It’s music for the coffeehouse crowd that prefers songs sung in an indoor voice.
As for those who found Jones’ early work too mellow, they’re unlikely to applaud the return to her roots. She’s again serving up intimate ballads in a sultry alto with hints of jazz, and while the music is pretty, it’s also pretty polite.
There’s a disconnect when pulling down from the cloud new music so grounded in the last century, especially the singer-songwriter heyday of the 1970s. “Flipside” echoes Joe Jackson, “It’s a Wonderful Time for Love” borrows from Van Morrison and “Don’t Be Denied” covers Neil Young.
On her original tunes Jones sings about alcoholism (“Tragedy”), deceit (“Sleeping Wild”) and a relationship giving off the wrong kind of heat (“Burn”), but she never raises the temperature herself. Standout drummer Brian Blade manages to boost the energy level at times, as do horn arrangements on a few cuts, but Wayne Shorter’s squawky soprano sax seems jarring.
Jones’ frequent piano solos, like her vocals, are lovely but restrained. Many listeners will likely find lovely to be plenty.