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Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea

2010-01-29 09:14
The Sea

Don't think this means that Corinne rips up the R&B, neo-soul or "urban contemporary" rulebook though. Instead she simply looks "beyond the box" for help in coming to terms with her husband's death. Yes, several of the songs here are about handling the emotional hangover following her husband, Jason's accidental overdose on a cocktail of alcohol and heroin.

Who better to turn to for solace than iconic jazz songbird Billie Holiday's bittersweet lilt on unplugged acoustic rock sigh "Are You Here" and country-folk kissed break-up ballad single "I'd Do it Again"? And if it's redemption you're searching for to make sense of a rocky relationship that's ended in tears, then the penetrating sentiments of Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear - not Sexual Healing – are the Holy soul Grail ("Feels Like the First Time").

The 30-something songbird has taken a major leap of faith since the breezy pop of her Grammy and Brit Awards nominated Put Your Records On. Where her sound was tailored squarely towards bridging the gap between fans of Norah Jones and Katie Melua, it now reaches out to embrace edgier, more eclectic influences.

"Blackest Lily" is a mischievously funky guitar-driven soul jazz rocker that fans of Duffy and Amy Winehouse are going to want to shake their hips to. In contrast, "Love's On It's Way" channels both Tim and Jeff Buckley's existential ache into a symphonic soul haunt that flirts with, yet never succumbs to, its own suicidal tendencies. There are still the occasional backwards nods, like the breezy funky pop chart attack "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" or the cinematic jazzy throwback "Paper Dolls".

But it's edgier confessionals like "Diving For Hearts" that really validate her journey from denial and anger to faith and redemption with an ennui that sits somewhere between forgotten 80s soul pop stylists Swing Out Sister and alternative rock favourites The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In an R&B landscape that suffers from too many emotionally airbrushed booty babes and sassy Motown mamas, The Sea is an exhilarating reminder that music with real soul transcends all pigeonholes.

"R&B" may be the marketing tip iTunes uses to sell British songbird Corinne Bailey Rae’s new album to the punters. Yet as the mesmerising mix of melancholic soul, fiery alt. rock and sensual pop simmering beneath these late night tales of heartbreak, heartache and hope proves, there's far more to Ms. Rae than any neo-soul siren or retro-Motown mama clichés.
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