Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am a big fan of The Little Willies, the group featuring
Norah Jones and some of the musicians who backed her on her debut album, 2002's Come Away With Me.  My understanding of how the band got together is that, after all the hype from the first album got too crazy, Norah just wanted to go out and play Willie Nelson covers, and just be a band member, not necessarily the frontwoman. I think it developed a bit from there, to the point that they played other people's songs, and even wrote a few new ones.

I'd heard rumors about Norah and The Little Willies.  When I interviewed her for VH1 on the day that her second album, 2004's Feels Like Home came out, she told me after the interview that she was doing a gig that night with The Little Willies, and that it was like $5 cover or something. I was amazed.  On the day she releases the followup to one of the most successful debut albums in history, she's playing a bar with her undercover covers band. The following year, The Little Willies released their self-titled debut album, and I think they toured a bit too.

Last year, they announced their second album, For The Good Times. I was kind of surprised: Norah and bassist Lee Alexander were a couple and split up a few years ago.  So I didn't think that they'd get the band back together.  But it makes sense that the album was named after the classic Kris Kristofferson track: it's about looking back at the good times of a now-defunct relationship.  And anyway, it sounds like they had a blast making this record.  Songs like "If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time" and "Foul Owl On The Prowl" show Norah letting her hair down a bit, as it were.  She doesn't always sing lead: "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves," (featuring her on supporting vocals) is definitely one of the highlights.   So is the cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  They also do Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," but it's hard to imagine her holding someone by the hair of their head and lifting them off of the ground.

It's interesting that I'm writing this the day that Norah's record label have announced that her next album, coming out later this year, will be produced by Danger Mouse, with whom Norah collaborated on the Rome album. I've got to think that that will be a lot different from The Little Willies, it's certainly not going to be straight up roots music.  But I'm definitely looking forward to it.


Chris Dhanaraj said...

Hey Brain! This is Chris Dhanaraj - I was just trying to reconnect with you, are you still at Sirius (couldn't find your email)?

Dev Rex said...

Hey, that's cool review. i like this thing. Thanks.

Eric said...

So glad to see this reviewed. This is a really fun recording. Just discovered the BONUS track of "Delia's Gone" on Amazon. It is wonderful as well. I have listened to "Fist City" way too much. I guess this is a good sign of covers-- it made me go back and listen to old Loretta. Overall, I was not as impressed with this recording as the first. But that was at first. After a few listens, it is proving to be a great disc by a group of GREAT musicians. I hope this is a good sign for 2012.

B. Ives said...

thanks Eric - actually I didn't know about the "Delia's Gone" cover, I'll have to check that out.