Despite the title, Fun is the operative word on the debut by Puss N Boots, the new “super-trio” formed by Norah Jones and her pals, North Carolinian Catherine Popper (Hem, Ryan Adams, Jack White) and Californian Sasha Dobson (who began performing with her family’s jazz combo at age 12). The threesome came together in Brooklyn, where Jones has found other collaborators in the rootsy Little Willies. And her harmony singing with Billie Joe Armstrong on 2013′s gorgeous Everly Brothers tribute, Foreverly, paved the way for this stripped-down showcase of vocal chops.
No Fools, No Fun offers a spare, unfussy batch of covers and originals, a spare, campfire pervading throughout. The Gowanus watering hole the Bell House provides the locale for three live numbers: Rodney Crowell’s cowboy romp, “Bull Rider,” Neil Young’s “Down by the River” (where Jones pulls off Youngian guitar squawk on the discordant break), and Roger Miller’s bad-girl paean “Tarnished Angel.” The spontaneous feel extends to the album cover — depicting the gals in their PJs — and the live-in-the-studio production, featuring three-part-harmonies and Jones on electric guitar and fiddle, Dobson on bass, drums and acoustic guitar, and Popper on acoustic guitar and bass. They trade lead vocals on renditions of Americana delights ranging from Tom Paxton’s “Leaving London” to Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” And the trio’s own diverse tunes are standouts: Jones’s rockabilly-ish “Don’t Know What It Means,” Dobson’s wry waltz “Sex Degrees of Separation” and jazzy “You’ll Forget Me,” and Popper’s country-rockin’ “Pines” and spooky “Always.” The fetching debut is as infectious as it is casual.