Norah Jones is pumped.
After two years of COVID-19 isolation, she’s finally back out on the road. In May, she played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Next week, on June 15-16, she plays two sold-out shows at Chateau Ste. Michelle — the opening shows of the winery’s summer concert series and the kickoff for her two-month tour.
“I can’t wait to be there,” said Jones, who last performed in the area in 2019 at the same venue. “I’m always excited to play a little music. Get a little joy where you can.”
The world-renowned singer-songwriter is also delighted to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Come Away With Me,” the blockbuster album that rocketed her to fame, earning eight Grammy Awards and sales of nearly 30 million. Blue Note Records has marked the occasion with the release of a 44-track package, “Come Away With Me: 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition,” which features the original album, the demo tapes Jones first sent to Blue Note, plus an early, discarded version of the disc.
In her excellent liner notes, Jones explains in fascinating detail how the special sound of her “moody little record,” as she called it, came to be.
“I was so young, so naive,” she said. “I knew what I wanted, or I knew what I didn’t want. I was still figuring things out. But I was still very headstrong in many ways. I was not being steamrolled by anybody. It was really a great exchange of musical ideas, with everybody, and I felt like I came through loud and clear.”
Though her tour is tied to the album release, Jones stressed that “this is not a ‘Come Away With Me Tour.’ This is everything.”
That includes songs from her 2020 album, “Pick Me Up Off the Floor,” which she said is now one of her favorites.
“We finished it before COVID, but it still sounds like it’s all about that first month,” she said. “It’s got that deep, sad vibe.”
Indeed. The album’s “Heartbroken, Day After” is classic Jones, who somehow manages to make feeling sad feel good: “It’s not that bad,” she sings. “Or is it? Maybe.” Hopefully, she’ll do that one as well as the dark “Were You Watching” and the slo-mo “Stumble On My Way.”
During the pandemic, Jones released an album of past live performances, optimistically titled “’Til We Meet Again,” which closes with a haunting rendition of the late Chris Cornell’s “Black Hole Sun,” which he sang at Detroit’s Fox Theatre hours before he died in 2017. Jones was the first act to play the Fox after Soundgarden that year.
“I grew up in the ’90s and I loved that music,” she said. “I thought, maybe I’ll try to do this song as a little tribute … I don’t know, something happened … it was just one of those things where you could feel the audience and the song and everybody was all one. It’s the only time I played it.”
Will she perform it here? Please?
Probably not, she said, as she doesn’t want to “break the spell” of the version they did in Detroit.
Back when she first got famous, Jones’ countrified grace notes often drew comparisons to Nashville piano hero Floyd Cramer, but Jones said that sound actually came to her through Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s older sister, who just died in March. Whatever the influences — Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were important, too, she said — Jones is playing more piano on her shows than she used to, partly because she’s touring with a stripped-down backup trio: the great drummer Brian Blade, bassist Chris Morrissey and guitarist Dan Iead, who also plays pedal steel.
“But I play so much differently now,” she said.
No doubt she does. But the original, cool fire of that first album will still shimmer under everything she does.