The only stamp on this album comes from her heart and soul alone. Come Away with Me is spectacularly steady, especially for a debut album by a 22-year-old singer-songwriter-pianist, going its own way without a map or even a road, yet never veering off its chosen path. She meets Nick Drake and Lucinda Williams and Dinah Washington, among others, along the way, but she never breaks stride, she never stops long enough to get stuck in a rut.
The disc envelops a full record store of categories and potential pigeonholes, from country to cabaret to folk to piano-bar blues and simmering soul, but Jones alights on each with the subtle touch of a skilled actor, almost imperceptibly toying with her line readings. Instead of coming off as a mix tape of influences, Come Away with Me is a 14-song examination of Jones's musical personality, a long look at how all of the styles and all of her substance come together to floor you with the softest punch ever thrown. It's not all over the place; it's all from one place. The difference is slight but distinct, and that's the trick.
Actually, there aren't many tricks to be found on Come Away with Me; the disc is almost stripped bare of ornament, the fat trimmed away to reveal only Jones's Sunday-morning voice and singing-to-myself sincerity. Her seductive murmur is a smoky hush that falls all over each song. When she whispers, "Come away with me and we'll kiss on a mountaintop / Come away with me / And I'll never stop loving you," a bag is packed before the song ends. When she moans, on "Shoot the Moon," "Will you think of times you've told me / That you knew the reason why we had to each be lonely," she's so sad and strong, it's more genuine than any song deserves to be. And though she wrote or co-wrote only three of the songs on the album, Jones's singular voice owns all of them, even familiar tunes like "Cold Cold Heart," which has been covered and recovered so often you'd think Hank wrote it in an upholstery shop.
Still, as skilled as she is at interpreting others' material, it's obvious from the songs she wrote for this record -- "Nightingale," "The Long Day Is Over" and the title track -- that Come Away with Me is merely sticking a big toe into the depths of her talent.