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No Fools, No Fun (2014)

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Norah Jones

Puss N Boots began performing in N.Y.C. nightclubs in 2008 but didn't deliver their debut, No Fools, No Fun, until the summer of 2014 -- a pretty good indication that this group was intended as something of a lark. All three musicians -- Sasha DobsonCatherine Popper, and Norah Jones -- keep themselves busy with solo day jobs that range from in-demand supporting musicians to full-time superstars, butPuss N Boots affords the trio an opportunity to indulge in their shared love of country and other pieces of ramshackle Americana. Jones has another part-time country band, but where she's the frontwoman for the Little WilliesPuss N Boots is decidedly a collaborative affair, finding JonesDobson, andPopper harmonizing and trading leads, often within the course of a song. The group follows no straight path and neither does No Fools, No Fun. It's half covers, half originals, part live and part studio, the different parts sitting side by side, adding up to a curious record whose raggedness feels like a statement of purpose. Puss N Boots celebrates the moments that don't add up, the places where the present blurs with the past, delivering songs with a sly wink that camouflages a teary eye. No Fools, No Fun is never rowdy -- the closest it comes is the train-track beat of Jones' original "Don't Know What It Means" -- but there's an earthiness to the trio's chemistry that signals how deeply the group knows each other's strengths and weaknesses. This is where Puss N Boots' long history of woodshedding pays off: far from sounding like a busman's holiday, there's a shared past that's evident in every moment of this debut, and that natural, relaxed camaraderie is the reason why No Fools, No Fun is such an appealing listen.