Having fallen in love with Norah's first album (`Come Away With Me') as soon as I heard it, but feeling slightly less warm toward her second (`Feels Like Home'), I was a little worried that I may start to feel decidedly chilly toward this latest album. And I suppose it is music to chill to. It is probably true to say that `Not Too Late', while keeping stylistically close to its predecessors, is not so easy to get into. There are not too many tracks here that you would think will make it on to many radio stations' playlists, or that strike you as material for single release in the way that, say `Sunrise' or `Come Away With Me' did. Wait a minute, what am I thinking? In this age of downloads, singles may not matter too much anyway.
`Not Too Late' can be regarded as unobtrusive background music, but it's actually a very intimate and intricate piece of work. Unobtrusive because the music is often deceptively one-paced and, admittedly, some tracks, notably `Thinking About You' and `Be My Somebody', would have benefitted from a punchier instrumental delivery. For the most part, the band delivers the goods beautifully complementing Norah's velvety voice.
Lyrically, this is a wonderful album. The themes of friendship, love and betrayal in `Wish I Could', `Not My Friend' and `The Sun Doesn't Like You' are complemented by the world-weary cynicism of `My Dear Country', almost like a Randy Newman song. In fact, there are so many good songs here that there must be a queue of artists waiting to cover them. `Not My Friend' is almost tailor-made for Chris Smither in my opinion, and the country-tinged `Wake Me Up' and `Be My Somebody' will surely feature in other artists' repertoires.
This may indeed be Norah's least accessible album, but that should not deter those who enjoyed her first two. There are no tracks that particularly stand head and shoulders above the others, but for my money, this is her most accomplished album so far.