Grapevine-raised Norah Jones loosens up on colorful new LP, “Visions”

Wearing a colorful striped dress, Norah Jones poses against a white backdrop

Norah Jones. Photo: Joelle Grace Taylor

How carefree is the latest album from Norah Jones? You can hear literal birdsong underneath the opening track, “All This Time.”

The Grapevine-raised Grammy winner’s ninth studio album, Visions, drops Friday, and it’s arguably her most mellow effort since her sophomore LP, Feels Like Home (which, coincidentally, turns 20 this year).

Jones teamed with producer and multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels — the pair co-wrote every song here, save two — and solicited contributions from drummers Brian Blade and Homer Steinweiss, as well as bassist Jesse Murphy and trumpeter Dave Guy. (In addition to singing and co-writing every song on Visions, Jones also plays piano, guitar, bass, organ, and omnichord.)

“The reason I called the album Visions is because a lot of the ideas came in the middle of the night or in that moment right before sleep, and ‘Running’ was one of them where you’re half asleep and kind of jolted awake,” Jones said in a statement. “We did most of the songs in the same way where I was at the piano or on guitar and Leon was playing drums and we were just jamming on stuff.

“I like the rawness between me and Leon, the way it sounds kind of garage-y but also kind of soulful, because that’s where he’s coming from, but also not overly perfected.”

The cumulative effect is a sweet dose of serotonin, featuring some of the 44-year-old singer-songwriter’s loveliest melodies in years, and serves as a Technicolor counterweight to her 2020 LP, the jazzy, downbeat Pick Me Up Off the Floor.

Letting her high notes fly

Apart from the generally laid-back nature of the songs, what is also immediately striking about Visions is how fully Jones throws herself into hitting high notes — “Staring at the Wall,” with its insistent backbeat and choogling electric guitar, is a goosebump-inducing early highlight, as is the sultry country shuffle “Queen of the Sea” — which only enhances the feeling of gleeful abandon.

Lyrical light at the end of the tunnel

A recurring theme throughout Visions is the sense that, after the grueling experience of living through a pandemic, better days are, at last, visible on the horizon. “There were times when I lost my mind/But now I’m fine,” Jones sings on “I’m Awake,” one of several songs alluding to a crisis now past.

The value of great collaborators

However masterful Jones is on her own — and, let’s be clear, she is quite masterful — she has always meshed well with a range of musical partners, whether it’s Willie Nelson or Valerie June. Here, her artistic alchemy with Michels (whose credits include work with, among others, the late Sharon Jones) unlocks a looseness and soul-drenched passion within Jones which places Visions among her best work.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.