Monday, July 14, 2014


I suck at camera photos but this is Norah Jones and her new group, Puss'n'Boots. They were the closing act in the weekend music festival that happens every summer in my little Jersey town. People came from far away to see Norah Jones and some were disappointed at what they got. She and two other women played covers and some original tunes (their "record" comes out tomorrow I believe) and did a lot of it very nicely, but all in a country style.

A lot of folks were looking for the kind of sultry jazzy Sade style crooning and keyboard playing that made Norah Jones famous. But in this trio she just plays guitar and sings, sometimes lead, sometimes back up. One of the other women, Sasha Dobson, plays drums on some songs and guitar on others. The third woman, Cat Popper, plays bass and now and then guitar.

Their harmonies are worth the price of admission (though this festival is free, but you know what I mean). Beautiful, sometimes stunning. Jones' voice is as amazing as ever. As are the other women's. Their playing is good but none of them are instrumental virtuoso's. Jone's picks her guitar mostly in the single note stick-mostly-to-the-melody style of early country.

Most of the crowd loved it, though some wanted the old Norah Jones. But that's what makes her so interesting and unique, I think. What other music star can you think of who would change a style that made them famous and wealthy to one their fans might not like, and then not name her band after herself, and in fact seem to want to make it perfectly clear that she's just one of the gals on stage with the other gals (and they all seemed to really be having a lot of fun which is maybe why she decided to do it).

Hey, the weather held out, the crowd was the biggest yet, and they covered a song no one around me knew or maybe ever heard before, but was a standard at my clan's parties when I was growing up, that always brought tears to the grown ups eyes, even the ones who weren't drunk, and which I hadn't heard since then but remembered every word to and ended up teary eyed myself, despite the fact that they did it, as they did a lot of their set, in a very slow tempo and that early country style, when the way my clan sang it was with an Irish lilt (I always thought it was an Irish song because of the whole "shanty" angle, and though our homes weren't shacks we lived pretty near the railroad tracks and my Irish immigrant grandparents down the street were even closer to them) and then my third oldest brother (the one who became a cop)—and some cousins of his generation and maybe my big sisters—would follow with a swing version that as a kid made me very happy.

Though the ending still made me cry: "There's a queen waiting there with her silvery crown in a  shanty in old shanty town..." even when swung, which also meant the lyrics were "hepped" up. But the version Puss'n'Boots did was with the original lyrics as they do in this recording on YouTube that looks like maybe the first time they did the tune (it's Cat Popper singing and playing bass, though I can't hear the bass, with Jones on guitar and joining in singing harmony later—you can hear but not see Dobson on drums):

And here's the swing version my brother sang, Johnny Long's version. (As a kid I thought my two oldest brothers, who were in the military in WWII but played in swing bands before and after their service, I thought as a kid that they were actually in Johnny Long's band!)


tpw said...

Great song, and I like their languid take on it, though the Johnny Long version has the advantage of including Haile Selassie in the lyrics, which is something I always try to do in my own songs. They should do "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," one of my all-time favorites from the past.

Lally said...

the original hit was in 1932 so "Haile Selassie" would've been seen then as an old style monarch, but by 1940 and Johnny Long's first version (revised in 1946 which was the record my family played mostly) he had been invaded by Mussollini etc. so I assume it would have reverberated differently then...but I always loved that rhyme as a shows the kind of wit your comment displays tp...Yeah, they could really make "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" new...

Connie said...

The version I remember was closer to Norah Jones. The voice in my head is someone like Dinah Shore or Doris Day.