Recording

BLAIR’S DVD WATCH: Five Music DVDs for Last Minute Holiday Shoppers!

12/16/2008 11:02 AM Eastern

Norah Jones: Live from Austin TX (New West)

The Austin City Limits imprimatur is pretty much a guarantee of quality (have you ever seen a less than stellar performance on the show?), so it’s no surprise that this 18-song set from Norah Jones & The Handsome Band, recorded for ACL in June 2007, is a wonderful tour through the talented singer-songwriter’s catalog (and more). While there are those who find her laid-back approach a little soporific, I find her easygoing vibe utterly charming, and her delivery combines excellent pitch (even on the slide notes) and a real grasp of the power of nuance. She’s not flashy as a player, either, but she’s a supremely tasteful pianist (and guitarist). There are dollops of jazz, pop, country and R&B here—I guess you could say her style is an amalgam of all those elements, but like Rickie Lee Jones (whom she occasionally resembles), she has forged her influences into something that is unmistakably her. The arrangements are fairly spare, which really lets her vocals come through, but there’s still a broad range of instrumental textures from her versatile band, from lap steel to banjo to marimba to trombone. Although, like a lot of fans, I was initially struck by Jones’ somewhat jazzy rambles when she first hit it big a few years ago, I’ve become increasingly fond of her more country side, as on “Be My Somebody,” “Little Room,” “Long Way Home” (a Tom Waits tune) and “Creepin’ In.” The balladeer comes out strongest on “My Dear Country,” “Hands on the Wheel” and “Rosie’s Lullaby.” Eclectic, intelligent and evocative lyrics, good player, easy on the eyes: Norah Jones is the complete package, and this DVD is a great introduction to her casual but heartfelt oeuvre.

Producers: Cameron Strang, Jay Woods, Gary Briggs. Director: Gary Minotti. Audio engineers: David Hough and Sharon Cullen. Mixers: Chet Himes, Gary Briggs.

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