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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Album review: Macy Gray’s patented purr-and-growl vocals thrive in Stripped

Gray applies the same successful approach throughout the album – honest vocals without mannerisms, just straightforward communication.
Stripped, the latest release by Macy Gray. Chesky Records via AP Photo
Stripped, the latest release by Macy Gray. Chesky Records via AP Photo

Stripped

Macy Gray

(Chesky Records)

Four stars

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.

artslife@thenational.ae