June 9, 2020 Norah Jones – Pick Me Up Off the Floor (Album Review)
When we last heard from the inimitable Norah Jones in April 2019, she was flexing her wings and having a good time with Begin Again. But these days she’s back to her roots, offering up those sultry smooth vocals as she crafts inspired melodies on the ivories. You can call it piano-based Jazz and that is exactly what we get with Pick Me Up Off the Floor, which arrives Friday, June 12, 2020, thanks to Blue Note Records.
Nine-time Grammy Award winner Norah Jones has music in her blood. A singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist with well in excess of 50 million records sold worldwide, she can do no wrong. Emerging onto the world stage in 2002 with her astounding debut, Come Away With Me, she has forged a critically acclaimed and commercially successful career with albums such as 2004’s Feels Like Home and 2016’s Day Breaks. Refusing to sit idle or to squander her creative fire, she has also recorded with her groups The Little Willies and Puss N Boots, as well as taking time to collaborate with a slew of other exceptional artists.
A prolific musician with an incomparable oeuvre of material, Jones is set to return with the 11-track Pick Me Up Off the Floor. The self-produced collection—with the exception of “I’m Alive” and “Heaven Above,” which were produced by Jeff Tweedy—was mixed in part by Matt Marinelli, as well as Jamie Landry with assistance from Joey Wunsch and John Muller. The LP was mastered by Greg Calbi with Steve Fallone, and features a cavalcade of exceptional musicians. This includes bassists Christopher Thomas, John Patitucci, Jesse Murphy, and Josh Lattanzi, drummers Brian Blade, Nate Smith, Dan Rieser, and Josh Adams, keyboardist Pete Remm, pedal steel guitarist Dan Iead, violinist Mazz Swift, violist Ayane Kozasa, cellist Paul Wiancko, percussionist Mauro Refosco, background vocalists Ruby Amanfu and Sam Ashworth, and the horn section of trumpeter Dave Guy and tenor saxophonist Leon Michels.
Pick Me Up Off the Floor opens to the dulcet tones of “How I Weep.” A minimalist composition, as is Jones’ signature style, the track utilizes an emotional cello to accentuate the siren’s flawless vocals before beginning a delicate prance capped off with subtle orchestration. An entrancing experience, it paves the way for “Flame Twin,” as the pace ‘escalates’ to something smoky and jazzy. A sultry undulation, it allows for a stellar piano performance before she establishes a glittering trot in “Hurts To Be Alone,” a straightforward shot of truth.
These lonesome wanderings continue to meander, winding into “Heartbroken, Day After,” which opens to beautifully nuanced piano and bass. Anchoring a passionately lofty vocal delivery, this presentation demands your attention and praise for Miss Jones’ immaculate abilities. Spicing things up, she offers additional bold brass on “Say No More,” capped it off with a cherry in the form of its inspired piano solo and gentle jam session
As is often the case in Jones’ minimalist compositions, piano and bass set the backdrop for some reflections on “This Life” before Guy’s trumpet returns to the mix and echoes her on “To Live.” Percussion then ushers us into “I’m Alive,” where guitar weaves throughout the body of the track. Here, as she details the life of a songstress who sings, dances, drinks, and hopes to hear voices echoing her own, it’s possible to hear the smile on Jones’ lips.
Next up, a smoky sway sits at the heart of the emboldened “Were You Watching?” as the album begins to slowly wind its way to a close. And with the end approaching, Jones’ characteristic languid pacing and wispy vocals encompass “Stumble On My Way” then continue into the delicate “Heaven Above.” In this, the entire collection wraps up with the cascading notes of her piano expertise shimmering across their entire soul.
Serving up a cool sip of refreshment on a scorching summer afternoon, Norah Jones has anticipated exactly what our world needs. And her cross-genre blend of all things chill sees an artist who is at all times alluring and smooth in her understated sonic sorcery. On Pick Me Up Off the Floor, she captains a journey that is both personal and societal, one that connects with her listeners in its intimate moods born of loss and reflection. Intended to guide each of us toward our own light, it is both burdened by weighty emotions and a haunting darkness, but ultimately brimming with hope and love. In this, Pick Me Up Off the Floor is what the world needs now: a musical tonic. Thus, Cryptic Rock gives the album 5 of 5 stars.