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If Jones’s new album, “Feels Like Home,” follows suit, she will join an even more elite group: only a handful of artists have had back-to-back 10-million sellers…
“I think it’s crazy to say it will sell more than 18 million,” Blue Note president/CEO Bruce Lundvall adds.
Crazy, maybe, but that’s the benchmark set by Jones’ first album, “Come Away With Me.” It sold 18 million units worldwide, according to her label. Of those, 7.8 million moved in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“There is so much excitement, and that’s one of Norah’s concerns, too,” Lundvall continues. “So we’re not hyping the record. We’re not going out there and advertising all over the world. We have a very solid plan, but it’s not over the top. We’re not saying this is the best artist of the last 50 years.”
“Feels Like Home” retains the lovely ease of “Come Away With Me” but strays from that album’s jazzy roots into country, Americana and bluegrass. Additionally, “Feels Like Home” has more midtempo material than the ballad-heavy “Come Away With Me.”
“It’s not like the last record, kept the same mood,” says Jones. “People liked that, and it was also the criticism.”
Jones wrote or co-wrote seven tracks on the album, working primarily with her bandmates. “This album, I was really adamant about wanting to be all the band and no one else,” she says.
Among the few outsiders allowed were guest stars Dolly Parton and the Band’s Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. There are also covers of tunes by Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan.
That’s not true. There’s her band, plus the 17 million people worldwide who bought ”Come Away With Me,” not to mention an entire music industry, desperate for hits, that is depending on her, even though very few artists have produced back-to-back phenomena. Just ask Alanis Morissette or Lauryn Hill.
It’s a lot of weight for 24-year-old shoulders to bear, especially considering that Jones often seems as if she would like nothing better than to shoot pool with her band. And now the tornado is starting to whip up again. ”I am,” she said, ”so tired.”
“Come Away With Me” was more than just a force of nature. It was a small miracle. The album, with its pearly style-skimming (a plink of jazz here, a splash of country there, several lappings of pop), had the luxury of incubating during Jones’s two-year apprenticeship in New York, performing in venues often barely bigger than a walk-in closet. Its low-fi sound was romantic and elegant but positively antediluvian: mostly acoustic, quiet in an age of hip-hop histrionics, something of a sonic antiboom. The greatest hope Jones had was that it would sell enough to let her make another one. But then ”Come Away With Me” started to spread slowly, almost pointillistically, into the musical psyches of ”80-year-old grandmas and 7-year-old girls and everyone in between,” as its producer, Arif Mardin, said recently. The success happened without the usual promotional tools, a Top 10 pop radio hit or a high-concept video, on a boutique jazz label, Blue Note, whose executives usually listen for talent first and chart positions later, if at all. Julian Fleisher, a New York nightclub singer who released his own album of smart, genre-busting pop in 2002, said: ”It was like Howard Dean. It was a grass-roots success that people heard about in their living rooms. That’s where I heard it first — in someone’s living room.”