January 21, 2010


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Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sea
Capitol Records, Jan. 26

Desperate-housewife-chill with enough Sheryl Crow avoidance to stand as an acceptable next step for listeners getting too old for Sia albums. Bailey Rae (she doesn’t like hyphens in hyphenated names, one of many points in her favor) has had a hard go of it her entire life, from the racist insults she endured in grade school to the death of her sax-player husband from a drug overdose two years after her debut LP had pummeled its way up the European charts. Her contribution to Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute album won a Grammy in 2007, which brings us most gracefully to here and the new LP, a smoldering conflagration in which she jacks Mitchell’s steez (“Paris Nights/New York Mornings”), Sia Furler’s helium-inflated unflappability (“Paper Dolls”) and Rickie Lee Jones’s dizzy pseudo-jazz (“The Blackest Lily”). A hint of asphalt-soul isn’t totally out of place here (Alicia Keys would maybe-probably write something like “Closer”) but mostly these are bedroom-hair chick-flick-backgrounders and glaze-eyed unplugged-guitar snoozers, the question of the day being “Is she the next Joni?” Nah, not when she petty-thieves from Sade so oafishly (“Feels Like the First Time”), but no ears will get hurt while people figure that out. A-Eric W. Saeger