JEFF APTER
American chanteuse Norah Jones has been keeping some interesting and unusual company of late: snogging golden boy Jude Law in My Blueberry Nights, helping out rapper Q-Tip with the sweet slow groove Life Is Better, even hanging out with Elmo in an episode of Sesame Street.

In keeping with these oddball cameos, Jones’ fourth album The Fall is filled with unexpected collaborations and not-so-typical music. It’s also the first album she’s recorded since splitting with long-time beau — and bandmate — Lee Alexander.

It was simply time for a change, admitted Jones. “I’m older now and I’m not afraid to just try something. I knew I wanted to try some different things on this album,” she said.

“I’d been playing with the same musicians for a long time. We’re all still friendly and I hope we play together again, but it felt like a good time to work with new people and experiment with different sounds.”

Alt-country maverick Ryan Adams teamed up with Jones to write the quietly unnerving Light as a Feather, repaying the favour she provided on Adams’ Jacksonville City Nights album.

Studio boffin Jacquire King, who produced, recorded and mixed The Fall, has placed his sonic stamp on records from the Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse. It was his engineering work on Tom Waits’ landmark Mule Variations that caught Jones’ ear — she described it as “the balance between being beautiful and rough and also sounding very natural”.

An impressive roll call of studio pros chip in elsewhere, including Joey Waronker, who’s drummed with Beck and REM, as well as keys man James Poyser, who’s worked with the very Reverend Al Green. Long-time sidekick Jesse Harris, who was there when Jones broke through with her runaway smash, Come Away With Me, helps out on two tracks.

“I think the record sounds different due to the variety of musicians we used,” Jones said.

“I knew I wanted to play with grooves more than I have on previous albums. I wanted the grooves to be more present and heavy. Some of these new songs lent themselves to having driving rhythms underneath.”

Eight years on from the release of her 20-million-selling debut album, Jones said she looked back on that initial period of musical fame with a mixture of fondness and regret.

“It feels like a lifetime ago… I feel like a completely different person. That whole time was chaos, like an insane rollercoaster ride that kept getting steeper and steeper. I wish I could have enjoyed it more, but we were just working so hard and I was pretty freaked out,” she sighed.

info: The Fall is out now through EMI.

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