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Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts: Live At Allaire Studios (Record Store Day 2023)

May 5, 2023

In early 2022, Norah Jones went into the Allaire Studios in upstate New York with her band and created a new, live version of her acclaimed 2012 album, Little Broken Hearts. As much as I liked the original Little Broken Hearts, I prefer this Record Store Day (RSD) version.

This seems like an ambitious album for a mere 2500-run RSD release. It is noted that as an RSD First’ Release” which typically means a conventional release is forthcoming. I am not seeing how this will ultimately come out. On June 2, 2023, Blue Note will be releasing an expanded 31-track deluxe reissue of Little Broken Hearts, however, it doesn’t include this Allaire version.

This new version was recorded at Allaire Studios with pedal steel guitarist Dan Iead, bassist Gus Seyffert, and drummer Brian Blade. I googled the studio and it is stunning. It is located in a 1928 estate on 20 acres of mountaintop overlooking Woodstock, the Catskills, and the Ashokan Reservoir.

Allaire Studios in upstate New York
One of the Allaire studios

The original Little Broken Hearts is an anomaly in the Norah Jones catalog. It was created in calibration with producer Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse made his name in the hip-hop word, so it is not obvious that collaborating with Norah Jones makes sense. Norah Jones and Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) first worked together when the producer asked her to contribute vocals to his acclaimed 2011 album ROME. After the success of that project, they agreed to develop a Norah Jones album together from scratch. Per Norah’s website:

In a first for her, Jones arrived empty-handed at the studio – no tunes, arrangements, just a few ideas in a notebook. The songs were all built from the ground up with Jones and Burton sharing all the songwriting credits and performing the majority of the instrumental parts; Jones on piano, keyboards, bass, and guitar, and Burton contributing drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, and string arrangements. The process was a complete change for Jones, but once they started it didn’t take long for her to warm to the challenges of creating on the fly using whatever resources she and Burton had between them. (Later, they brought in a band—including drummer Joey Waronker, bassist Gus Seyffert, and guitarist Blake Mills—to bolster many of the tracks.)

The result was an intriguing breakup album that had Jones performing out of her light jazz/Americana mode and more in the Danger Mouse world. It worked.

This version is back in the normal Norah zone and allows you to appreciate these great songs. In hindsight, the Danger Mouse version is overshadowed by Danger Mouse’s production – which was cool, but as I said earlier I prefer this version. This version has a stronger singer-songwriter vibe.

RSD has a few templates: reissue overlooked albums, vinyl releases of classic albums from the CD era, releases that are more about packaging than music, and unreleased gems that highlight an artist’s weird passions. This last category is my favorite and it is the category that Little Broken Hearts: Live At Allaire Studios finds itself in. This kind of release gets me queuing up at a record store before dawn. Bravo Norah and RSD!


From → Music Reviews

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