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For The Good Times (2002)

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The Little Willies

The Little Willies took six years to deliver a second album, but For the Good Times sounds like it could have been cut the same afternoon as their 2006 debut. This is by no means a bad thing. The primary pleasure of The Little Willies, the uptown country cabaret covers band fronted by Norah Jones, is their ease, how they can take tunes everybody knows by heart and not so much reinterpret them as freshen them, pulling them ever so slightly toward the jazzier side. Apart from a couple of song selections -- and ones that come close to the beginning of the album, too, as it opens with Ralph Stanley’s "I Worship You" and Scotty Wiseman's "Remember Me" -- there's nothing unexpected here, but For the Good Times doesn’t feel lazy; it's cozy and comfortable, a warm bath of an album. Generally, For the Good Times rambles along at a relaxed pace, which makes the quickening pulse of "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves" all the more prominent, but for as easy-rolling as this is, there is variety here -- "Fist City" is spirited, "Wide Open Road" provides some barreling good humor, "Jolene" is spare and affecting -- which is just enough to keep For the Good Times colorful and quietly engaging. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine