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Music Review: Corinne Bailey Rae — The Sea

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“This album, like everything I do, is made to try and impress Jason Bruce Rae.” Such is what British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae pens in dedication to her late husband in the liner notes of her current work, The Sea, underscoring how much its songs are shaped by circumstances that made her a widow before she turned thirty.

As she first exhibited on her eponymous debut in 2006, Bailey Rae naturally betrays a certain amount of pathos and fragility in her voice. On The Sea, she now resonates with those qualities all the more. Still throughout, she does so with serenity and resilience, never coming across as dour or self-pitying.

To the contrary, she is enchanting and at times zestful, personifying the latter especially well on "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" and "Paper Dolls," both cuts benefiting from rich, irresistible grooves. The same can be said (and then some) for “Feels Like The First Time,” during which she echoes Marvin Gaye's spiraling, layered arrangements on I Want You, rivaling its musical sophistication while asserting her own sensuous semblance of soul.

Alas, she is at her most resonant when she slows the music down as if retreating to her innermost reflections, summoning moments of breathtaking poignancy from the grief of her experience. “So young for death/We walk in shoes too big,” she sings on "I Would Like To Call it Beauty," almost trembling in a whisper above a subtle, acoustic guitar. It takes no small amount of courage to confront such mournful, mortal concerns—some people never come to terms at all with the loss they've endured in their lives—and by no means does Corinne Bailey Rae come across as if she's overcome her own. Yet in expressing her sorrow with such honesty and grace, she's rendered an exquisite album that ultimately transcends its subtext to inspire solace.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Marr, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Rickie Lee Jones, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • nice review donald. i’m always amazed when horrific things happen to people and they manage to spring back.

  • Olithia Rose

    I’ve listened to this album on repeat and your review is on point. Corinne has returned more strong and graceful than ever. Thanks for this review

  • GREAT album, and a great review. In fact, it might be my favorite album of the year (so far.) I’m really glad she waited until the time was right for her to put out something new rather than rush into things like so many others do.