Album review: Macy Gray’s patented purr-and-growl vocals thrive in Stripped
Macy Gray reinterprets some of her own hits with a jazz combo on Stripped, interspersed with a few new songs and covers of tracks by Bob Marley and Metallica.
Gray’s patented purr-and-growl vocals thrive in the intimate setting, with the well-chosen repertoire, and trumpeter Wallace Roney and bassist Daryl Johns skilfully colour the quartet’s arrangements.
Recorded in-the-round with a single microphone and no overdubs in a deconsecrated Brooklyn church, the album kicks off with Annabelle, a bluesy new tune apt for a speakeasy. Gray really does sound at home in this setting, with engineer Nicholas Pratt achieving a sweet balance between singer and band.
Holly Cole could tackle the double bass-led take of I Try, Gray’s biggest hit, while Madeleine Peyroux should consider covering the passionate reggae slant of She Ain’t Right for You. Gray imbues Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters with a deep melancholy that never wilts, as inventive solos from guitarist Russell Malone and, especially, Roney, provide elevation.
Marley’s Redemption Song gets a faithful reading, Gray applying the same successful approach she uses throughout the album – honest vocals without mannerisms, just straightforward communication and all the more effective for it. Gray says she’s open to using the no-frills recording approach in the future.
If she writes or finds the right songs, there is no reason why it would not be a similar triumph.