Peter Malick is a blues guitarist who has played with and supported some of the best in the business. However, most people might recognize him more for a friendship and musical partnership he developed with a certain piano player named Norah Jones. Jones and Malick have performed together in the past and seem to complement each other quite well. So it should come as no surprise then that Jones and Malick appear together on six of the 14 tracks offered on Malick’s latest album. There’s also help from Malick’s daughter Mercy and Jess Klein, who opens the album up with “Immigrant”, a tune that is the polar opposite of a blues tune—it reeks of Lilith Fair folk and seems a bit bland for the kicker. Later on she sings a “Midsize City Girl” that isn’t so folk-oriented, but comes off more like an Emmylou B-side. The title track, featuring Kirsten Proffit, fares slightly better. The country folk style gives way to an up-tempo pop feel that flows swimmingly.
The first (and possibly the most) pretty tune is “Opium”, with Kirsten Proffit mixing just a bit of folk in her moody and strong song-speak. Here, Malick’s playing sets the song in motion with Proffit reaping the rewards. “You are the rock star, play me the soundtrack to my life”, she sings as harmonies fade in and out behind her. If there’s one negative to this song, it really does seem a bit aimless, going along without a care in the world. This is quickly forgotten, though, once the main attraction to the album, Jones, takes the next tune to a totally different level. “Strange Transmissions” is a slower and blues-based tune that her whispered and sexy vocals seem to carry throughout. The drum fills give way to her signature style that makes this song work, pure and simple! The adult contemporary blues-pop flavor is delivered in spades with Malick’s moody and murky guitar up to the task. “Things You Don’t Have to Do” is even more raunchy, with Malick and Jones trading off vocal duties in a vein Bonnie Raitt would be proud of. It’s also one of the few songs that namedrops televangelist and man of a thousand comb-overs, Benny Hinn! Who knew?
Aside from Jones, Mercy Malick complements papa Malick to a tee. The Ray Charles cover of “What Would I Do?” is such a track, with the younger Malick towing the line between being very impressive and being a hot shot, octave-crazed diva. And she possesses that control that so few have or care to utilize. The elder Malick gives some of his best performances on this tune, especially with the bridge being his calling card. Jones returns again with her third contribution, “Deceptively Yours”, a sexy blues number that she occasionally lets loose on. The song also gives her something to play with, namely Malick’s great riffs and timing, allowing just enough space for the tune to catch its breath. “Into the City” starts off as a somber and off-kilter tune, but finds its footing quickly, making it a nice change of pace ditty.
The last three songs are possibly the best on the album, all courtesy of Norah Jones. And this time the songs tend to be more along the lines of her solo album. “Heart of Mine” could be off of Come Away with Me, a piano-driven slow dance romance tune that she takes into her vocal bosom. “Heart of mine, go back home / You got no reason to roam”, she sings while the bass line mixes well with everything else. “All Your Love” doesn’t work as well, far too steeped in the blues, with Jones forcing the issue at times just a fraction. Thankfully, the album reins itself back in with a gorgeous blues/jazz based tune in “New York City”. It’s a perfect ending to a surprisingly good record. It would be good without Jones, but with her inclusion it is terrific!
// Notes from the Road
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