MUSIC REVIEW: Norah Jones Page 3

The third track, "The Sun Doesn't Like You," works nearly as well in its prison setting: "So tonight . . . we can build a fire / In the open field, past the razor wire / Sneak by the dogs when they go to sleep / Bring part of yourself that you'll let me keep." It's great to see such vivid imagery from this artist, and even though the music may seem standard, you can definitely tell there's more meat on this Jones.

And the track between those two, "Sinkin' Soon," really delivers the seasoning. In a song about our Ship of State, Jones and Alexander lead a New Orleans funeral march whose message is clear: "In a boat that's built of sticks and hay / We drifted from the shore / With a captain who's too proud to say / That he dropped the oar." Norah gets political! She also summons her inner Little Willie, and even if her momentary rasp isn't as wild as the way she unleashes "Lou Reed's in the cow pen" at the end of that disc, it's still a kick to hear her truly loosen up on her own album. And dig that crazy solo for trombone with mute, which is anything but muted.

What's more, the political gets personal on "My Dear Country," written by Jones alone and played by her nearly alone on piano. "Nothing is as scary as Election Day," she trembles. "But the day after is darker / And darker and darker it goes / Who knows, maybe the plans will change / Who knows, maybe he's not deranged." That's as scathing as anything on Neil Young's Living with War, yet it ends with thanks to her country: "I love the things that you've given me / And most of all that I am free / To have a song that I can sing / On Election Day."

Trouble is, after the album's first three tracks, there's a long stretch of four songs until we reach "My Dear Country." After that, there's another long stretch of five songs until . . . the albums ends. And on those nine songs, Jones drops the salt. Yes, the chorus of "Be My Somebody" has some passion, but it's never developed. And yes, the first single, "Thinking About You," has a little bit o' soul, but by the time the horns seem to start building on it, the track fades.