Puss n Boots: No Fools, No Fun

Puss n Boots No Fools No Fun
Puss n Boots
No Fools, No Fun
(Blue Note)
3 out of 5 stars

This engaging, if rather ragtag, outfit is another side project for Norah Jones. It’s one where she can loosen up and play music outside of her usual fare as she does in the similarly conceived Little Willies. Teaming with fellow singer/songwriter/players Sasha Dobson (bass/drums) and Catherine Popper (bass/guitar), the stripped down trio’s debut consists of a somewhat arbitrary blend of covers, original tunes and live work.

But the casual nature of the performances works in the disc’s favor since it seems the threesome is enjoying themselves and just wants to spread the love. Jones sticks to (rudimentary) guitar, abandoning the piano entirely, spitting out simple leads on a stuttering if amiable live cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River.” The eclectic nature of other tracks that range from George Jones to Wilco, the Band and Tom Paxton provide a reasonable idea of the rootsy aesthetic at work. It’s all agreeable and played, sung and harmonized with the low key allure of music born out of clubs as opposed to concert halls.  That carries the project even when the individual tracks often lean to the slight side. Jones’ velvety voice remains magnetic even at its most playful, as she is here, and Dobson along with Popper also hold their own vocally.

Little jumps out of the organic, pared down country, pop, folk and restrained rock mix but that’s as intended on a set with the limited aspirations of this one. Ultimately you wish they would have put more effort into what seems to be a really relaxed, yet not lackadaisical release. But it’s also difficult to dislike something that feels as genuine and unaffected as these dozen tracks played by talented friends clearly relishing each other’s company.