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Weary but Playful, The Little Willies 'Roll On'

Tucked right in the middle of the drinking-too-much and not-loving-enough songs on The Little Willies' debut is one unassuming Norah Jones Moment. The song is "Roll On," and the intro, punctuated by brushes on a snare drum, suggests that what's to come will be just like the aw-shucks ambling of the preceding tracks.

This far in, it's obvious what to expect: pickin'-party songs, bar-band basics enlivened by loose, easygoing solos that traverse Western swing and Stardust-era Willie Nelson. And then Jones enters, singing all worn-out and weary -- and not, crucially, trying to act out some approximation of worn-out and weary. Suddenly, the weather gets stormy.

Just like that, the song, written by bassist and producer Lee Alexander, becomes a different endeavor entirely. The lyrics address wasted afternoons, restless days spent "looking for a sign," and Jones sings them in insomniac bursts, tense and fitful. She's the only remotely troubled object in the frame: The band is clicking like clockwork, happy and serene.

Eventually, that spirit sweeps Jones along, too, and as she serves up a thoughtful instrumental half-chorus built from dancing Floyd Cramer honky-tonk lines. At that point, it's possible to detect the faint beginnings of a smile, coming right through the piano.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.
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