Album: Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sea (Virgin)

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The Independent Culture

Her beige-soul debut from 2006 positioned Corinne Bailey Rae as a Linda Lewis for the new millennium, its rose-tinted attitude aptly conveyed in the single "Put Your Records On".

Since then, Rae's husband, Jason, has died, a calamity that toughens the singer's emotional responses on The Sea, which as a result more closely resembles the work of such as Laura Nyro, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell. With its doomy, forbidding orchestral arrangement, airy vocal and lyric steeped in memories, "Feels Like The First Time" is like one of Gaye's romantic ruminations lost on the dark side, while "I'd Do It All Again", written in the aftermath of an argument a short while before the tragedy, has the musicality and unflinching reportage of a Joni Mitchell diary entry. Elsewhere, the serpentine soul-jazz of "The Blackest Lily" and languid funk reflection "Closer" have the considered, confessional tone of Mayfield, Womack or Withers; but just when the album seems to slide into solipsistic gloom, along comes the chipper "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" and "Paper Dolls". It's an impressive example of a performer growing up in public.

Download this I'd Do It All Again; The Blackest Lily; Feels Like The First Time; Paper Dolls