September 1st, 2016
Artist: Macy Gray
Label: Chesky Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: September 9, 2016
Macy Gray’s latest studio album, Stripped, displays the comfort of a veteran and the willingness to explore new territory at the same time. Recorded in just two days in a Brooklyn church, the album’s 10 tracks are a combination of covers, originals, and new arrangements of Macy Gray songs.
One such arrangement is “I Try,” Gray’s hit from her 1999 debut album On How Life Is. This new arrangement allows for some flexibility that’s missing from the original, especially rhythmically. The musicians featured on the record—Ari Hoenig (drums), Daryl Johns (bass), Russell Malone (guitar), and Wallace Roney (trumpet), provide Gray a freedom that allows her voice to function like the jazz instrument it has remained all these years.
Gray’s rasp allows the album’s covers to shine as though they were her own. She turns Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” into a convincing jazz tune, with the help of star solos from Roney and Malone. Her cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is relatively straightforward, yet haunting.
Besides Gray’s vocals, the other standout aspect of this project is the production quality. Produced by Chesky Records for their binaural recording series, this album comes to life in a pair of headphones. This method of recording attempts to put the listener in the room with the musicians, which is ideal for the intimacy of the small jazz ensemble on this album.
Stripped is well paced, with grooves that complement each other, and a performance from Macy Gray that highlights her songwriting, vulnerability, and command of a voice that sets her apart from her contemporaries.
Reviewed by Allie Martin
Review Genre(s): Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk