Jones stays mellow on “Not Too Late”

Those who are already fans of the sultry songstress Norah Jones can rest assured she has stayed true to her style. But for those who still need convincing, “Not Too Late,” shows signs of growth, adding some of her credible jazz talent to political statements. The rest is characteristic of Jones but with a little more guitar than piano as she tells coy love stories.

Jones exploded onto the scene in 2002 with “Don’t Know Why,” a single from her breakout album “Come Away with Me.” Both were just as accepted on adult contemporary radio as on alternative stations. She gained more Grammys for that album than she could carry in her two arms. Jones is the biggest-selling female artist so far this century, and has allowed for others with similar formats, such as Anna Nalick, Inara George and Kate Havnevik, to follow. Despite the praise that has been bestowed upon her, she has trouble avoiding criticism of being too boring, earning the nickname “Snorah Jones.”

But “Not Too Late” gives a couple interesting twists to the typically gentle Norah. The song “Sinkin’ Soon” has a noticeably New Orleans jazz feel and can be interpreted as a description of the agonizing absurdities following Hurricane Katrina or witnessing the foibles of a government leader. But the song with lyrics such as “Now a tiny hole has sprung a leak/in this cheap pontoon/now the hull has started growing weak/and we’re gonna be sinkin’ soon,” could translate just as well to sound track a relationship gone sour.

“My Dear Country” leaves less to the imagination as Jones sings “‘Cause we believed in our candidate/but even more it’s the one we hate/I needed someone I could shake/on election day.” She gives a thank you to the country for her freedom to sing, but tells a story of an election day being more frightening than the previous Halloween.

With subtlety in the resentful track “Not My Friend” she explains betrayal within frendship singing “I’ll be ok/ ’cause when I back away/I’m gonna keep the handle of your gun in sight.”

Anyone counting on Jones for calm, romantic songs or a forlorn lament will still be satisfied with this album. In fact, for the rest of he album she rarely sidesteps the topic of love. She begins with a John Denver-like guitar groove, ironically about a girl named Annie and her lost love who went to war. The melody makes it romantic, but the harmony makes it ache.

Not willing to leave out any aspect of love she discusses dedication and romance in the excessively adorable tune “Little Room” and immortality and love in “The Sun Doesn’t Like You.”

Her first single “Thinking About You” provides the romantic mood music Jones is so good at – its smooth, predictable and leaves room to hope for love’s return.

Whether with tranquil jazz or experimentation with countrified love songs, her album plays like the lazy- weekend-morning music one can expect from Jones. There’s the initial enjoyment of the favorite coffee mug, the comfort of the vintage T-shirt, but the music soon leaves you ready for the Saturday afternoon nap. But then again, who wouldn’t want to thank Jones for helping add that to the schedule?