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Puss N Boots – Sister

April 19, 2020

I have been a Norah Jones fan since day one. This is an artist who I fell in love with on her debut album, released February 26, 2002. I had been introduced to her a few months earlier on Charlie Hunter’s album Songs From the Analog Playground.

She was noticeable on that album, someone to pay attention to in the future.

What got my attention about her debut album, even before hearing it, was learning in prerelease PR that Arif Mardin had produced it. A legend – this guy produced Aretha, Anita Baker, and Roberta Flack to name a few (I was reminded with the recent passing of John Prine that Mardin produced Prine’s debut). Mardin knows how to produce women and make big hits! I was going to buy Come Away With Me on release day no matter what. In those days there were no leading streaming singles. There was not even radio play early on for an unknown like Norah Jones on a jazz label (Blue Note). So I bought Norah sight unseen, it was a perfect album.

Eventually, Come Away With Me crept on to radio and it became a massive hit. It sold over 27 million copies worldwide as of 2016 making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Jones won five Grammys in 2003.

Well anyway, I am a Norah fan – a big obsessive fan. This poster is from her first national tour and hangs in our home:

So based on all of that, I don’t know why I did not get into Puss N Boots’ first album. But I sure dig this new one.

The cool thing about Norah is she did not let the fame and money ruin her. She leveraged it; Puss N Boots is one of those leverages. A cool detour into an artsy modern girl group with Americana leanings.

Norah has hooked up jazz singer-songwriter Sasha Dobson and singer-songwriter Catherine Popper to create Puss N Boots. Their focus is alternative-country/Americana. They play mostly their own songs and occasional covers. Lead vocals are distributed amongst all three. Harmonies are heavenly, the arrangements and performances are relaxed. The vibe is deceiving laidback, but don’t be fooled this – it is a sneaky masterpiece.

Although Norah Jones is the big name here, this is a collaborative effort. Jones’ contribution is less as a lead vocalist, but through her ubiquitous minimalist guitar playing, drums and harmony vocals. All three vocalists are distinctive voices, yet there is a cohesive flow to the album. The three switch instruments (guitar, bass and drums) nearly as much as they switch lead vocals. This is a band and not a vocalist or instrumentalist showcase. Less is more, seems to be the plan here.

Of particular delight is Catherine Popper’s take on Paul Westerberg’s “It’s A Wonderful Lie.” This gem is from Westerberg’s third solo album Suicaine Gratifaction. An obscure, but brilliant choice for the ladies. I assume Blue Note label boss Don Was had a hand in that (he produced Suicaine Gratifaction).

This is a gentle album to spin in the background, but you will be rewarded if you give it a serious upfront listen. One of my favorite releases so far in 2020.

From → Music Reviews

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