Right before her Blue Note Records debut, Norah Jones was the talk of the town, at least in my town. Everyone carried her around in their pockets like a precious little secret and you were either part of the club or you weren't. I missed the early train. I didn't see the pre-major label performances to audiences of 40 or less. I never got the 6 track, pre-major label E.P.. I just got shoved on at rush hour like everybody else. But I got on.
I've been a fan since "Come Away With Me," her gazillion selling first album. I loved the follow-up, "Feels Like Home," even more. Yes, there are times, especially on the last two records, where you just want to give her a little Kramden-on-Norton shove and say, "Will you come on?!" There's a quality in Norah's voice, as pure and wonderful as it is, that can occasionally lull you to sleep, which would be fantastic if you wanted to go to sleep. But even on the upbeat tunes, which are admittedly few and far between on her first four records, Norah Jones never really belts one out. And I know she can.
This brings me to The Little Willies, one of Jones' many side projects and another reason I love her. She's a star. Like huge, with 800 Grammys and lots of very famous friends, and she'd still rather hang around NYC with her buddies and play covers in tiny downtown clubs. With The Little Willies, her buddies are singer- songwriter Richard Julian, guitarist extraordinaire Jim Campilongo, ex-boyfriend, bassist and producer Lee Alexander and drummer Dan Rieser, and the new record, "For The Good Times," released on January 10th, picks up and takes off where the 2006 debut Little Willies left off.
"For The Good Times" is a blast. With Norah and Richard Julian sharing lead vocal duties, this killer little band parties through country faves by Ralph Stanley, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and the band's namesake, Willie Nelson. Does Norah Jones belt one out here? Well, not in a Janis Joplin sense, no. But it sure does sound like she's done a little shooter of whiskey or two. She plays it less safe than on her solo records, and the result is fantastic. Looser.
The selecton of covers is great- "Lovesick Blues," "Fist City," "Jolene," and one of my all time faves, Kris Kristofferson's heartbreaking title track. Jim Campilongo's Tele-attack will make your jaw drop. He's a player that should be getting a lot more attention.
Take a look:
I don't want to deceive any of you. The Little Willies aren't some rocking twangers like Southern Culture On The Skids or even Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen. The production is warmer than it should be. But, I love both these records nonetheless, and if you only sorta liked Norah Jones, I'd give The Little Willies a go.