Despite selling 25 million records worldwide, Macy Gray classes herself an outsider. Asked about growing up in Canton, Ohio, she says: "I'm too tall, with a little head and big feet and this funny little voice. I didn't fit in and I still don't."
Though, now in her forties, she seems to have reached an accommodation with life, love and show business. Of Ruby, her latest album, she says simply: "I hope it makes people happy."
It certainly should. Gray's rasping, soulful voice gets to grips with 12 songs of the present day that reveal a growing maturity. In the opener, "Buddha," she counsels: If it's what you feel, my advice is that you show it, So baby cry, if you hide, how will I know it?. And in the closer, "Witness," she risks the ire of America's Faithful, with this admonishment to no less than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself: Save us, like you promised to, Hey, no disrespect but I would fix it if I was you.
More importantly for subscribers to All About Jazz the question is likely to be: is this jazz? Gray says, "With my stuff there is always a jazz element. That is what I grew up on." This element is most apparent on "Tell Me," built around a line Cole Porter might have written: Am I reading too much into your touch?
But it's followed by "Sugar Daddy," which is unadulterated bubblegum and more than a trifle irritating. However, Gray redeems herself with "When It Ends," looking at life and love in the modern age.
"Just Like Jenny" is the sort of number Lennon and McCartney might have written back in the good bad old daysit's a lot of fun. The one thing that there isn't much of on this album is soul, and that's just as well. Despite all the many publicity shots emphasizing her colour and Afro hair-do, Gray lays no claim to be a soul singer.
Buddha; Cold World; Over You; White Man; Tell Me; Sugar Daddy; When It Ends; Just Like Jenny; Jealousy; Shinanigins; But He Loves Me; Witness.
Macy Gray: vocals; Gary Clark Junior: guitar; Johan Carlsson, Thomas Lumpkins, Meghan Trainor, Tommy Brown, Scott Bruzenak, Britten Newbill: synthesizer; Billy Wesson, John Jackson Junior: piano; Mattias Bylund, Leah Zeager: strings; Mattias Johansson: violin; David Bukovinszky: cello; Christopher Johnson: trombone; Printz Board, Jan-Anders Bjerge, Stuart Cole: trumpet; Tim "Izo" Orindgreff: saxophone and flute; Wojtek Coral: saxophone; Tomas Jonsson: tenor sax; Peter Noos Johansson, Chris Johnson: trombone; Thomas Lumpkins, Austin Brown: xylophone; Michael Engstrom, Alex Kyne, Caleb Speir: bass; Austin Brown, Gabriel Santana, Trevor Lawrence Junior, Tamir Barzilay: drums.
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