Tragedy often, fairly or unfairly, brings out the best in an artist. The greatest music comes from an emotional place, and when a musican opens themselves up to the world with a deeply personal work, it can scare away the casual listener, but mesmerize those looking for more than background noise from their music.
Few put out a more personal work in 2010 than British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae, whose "The Sea" is haunted by the 2008 death of her husband, fellow musician Jason Rae. What is even more amazing about this album is that a number of the songs that sound so deeply affected by such a tragic loss, were actually written before Rae's husband passed. They, of course, have taken on a whole different meaning in the wake of such a personal tragedy, and the album stunningly lays bare the pain Rae dealt with in the near two year hiatus after losing her loved one.
One such track is the powerful title track which closes "The Sea". Written in 2007, Rae sings the prophetic words "Goodbye paradise" before closing with the spine chilling lines "The sea, the majestic sea, breaks everything, crushes everything, cleaned everything, takes everything from me."
The ballad "I'd Do It All Again" is another such song. Written while her husband was still alive as a testament to their love, no matter the ups and downs of the relationship. Rae states she would do everything the same, a vow of complete commitment to the person she had chosen to marry.
Some of the feedback I've read online astounds me concerning this album, especially from the music buying public. Did you really expect another "Put Your Records On" in light of what has gone on in Rae's life in the last two years? Yes, this is a sad record, but at the same time beautiful and uplifting in its sadness. And there are plenty of musically upbeat moments. "The Blackest Lily" is the rockingest moment here, while the slinky, sexy funk of "Closer" is a true highlight.
But make no mistake, the jazzy, soulful ballads are where Rae makes her mark on "The Sea". The gorgeous "Love's On Its Way" builds from a quiet, acoustic based ballad into a full fledged, majestic finale as Rae touches on societal ills, then pleas for the saving grace of love to get to us all in time. "I Would Like To Call It Beauty" was written about her late husband, a song about finding beauty even in your worst times.
Rae's vocal performance throughout this album is flawless. Subdued when she needs to be, naked and emotional at times, powerful and in complete control throughout. In this era of the disposable garbage that passes for R&B music, she is a true original and this is a must hear release. A true gem.
"The Sea" was released in the U.S. January 26, 2010 on Capitol Records.