October 10, 2016 Norah Jones – Day Breaks (Album Review)
Singer-Songwriter Norah Jones began preparing for the spotlight at a young age, taking lessons long before anyone knew who she was. Immersed in music from day one, her mother was a concert producer and her father was a master at the Indian guitar-like instrument, the sitar. Now a well established musician, Jones has worked with many talented musicians over the years, and is considered by many to be a Jazz artist, however, she is known for incorporating several styles into her music, ranging anywhere from Blues to Country.
Jones has not just seen run-of-the-mill stardom though. Winner of Grammy awards in one night, for Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, tying with Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill, she is the real deal. All this said, her shining career began with 2002’s Come Away With Me, arguably her most well-known album, followed by 2004’s Feels Like Home, 2007’s Not Too Late, 2009’s The Fall, and 2012’s Little Broken Hearts. Garnering one platinum-selling album after another, Jones returns in 2016 with her sixth studio album, Day Breaks. Released October 7th via long-time label Blue Note, it promises to be yet another great effort from the talented musician.
Featuring a total of twelve songs, nine new songs and three covers, it beings with “Burn,” featuring a sultry mood set by Jones’ smoky vocals. Raw instrumentals make for the feeling that the listener is sitting in a dim bar as embers of passion smolder around the beat. Then, “Tragedy” is introduced by a sharp piano and understated drumline. True Blues soul permeates with the storyline and the church-like organ really seals the melancholy vibe into the song. Rolling in at a faster pace, “Flipside” comes in with bouncier beat and lyrics that add to the old school fray, creating a nostalgic feel reminiscent of the 1960s.
Turning more Jazz, “It’s a Wonderful Time For Love” is is a cut dripping in low-key class. On the other hand, “And Then There Was You” begins on a lullaby-like note. Like a daydreamer new in love, this track gently rocks back and forth in the musings of love. The first of the cover tunes, Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied” is presented with bold instrumentation. Tapping into an understated rebellion that can be life changing, Jones does a great job of making it her own.
Coming in with heavy echoing guitar, title-track “Day Breaks” is soon joined by a fragile piano. Separately, each detail of the track would be a light, almost upbeat combination, however, the mood soon transforms into something much darker. Horace Silver’s song “Peace” returns to the easy Jazz feel with a saxophone staring throughout. Feeling like a live performance on a local stage, it is another beautiful cover with Jones’ own personal twist. Gliding in smoothly, “Once I Had A Laugh” builds emotions along the way, and by the end, gives off the vibe of regained happiness. Bringing the mood down a notch once more, “Sleeping Wild” is highlighted by bass and deeper vocals. All about the double talk made with intoxication, listeners can almost see a person being pursued by the drunk promises.
With only two songs left, “Carry On” brings back the organs in tandem with piano and drums, while gentle vocals carry on the spirit of previous pieces. Here, letting go and moving on is illustrated in easy tones from start to finish. Then, Day Breaks ends on a serious note with Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower).” With the opening instrumentals, Jones invites the listener to kick back and draw their own conclusions.
Overall, Day Breaks is smooth, dark, and sophisticated, a tradition for Norah Jones. Jones continues to work each track in a different way that continues to stay true to her style and sound, but this album also sees her keep to more piano-driven compositions. Each song presented on the album has its own merits, and fans will have no issue finding their own personal favorites with each listen. CrypticRock gives Day Breaks a 4 out of 5 stars.