Artist: Macy Gray
Label: Chesky Records
Release Date: 09/09/2016
Macy Gray is no stranger to jazz, considering herself a jazz singer at heart, but after nine sweet soulful sing-along records, longtime fans are happily surprised with her latest record, Stripped, released last month as her very first all-jazz album. Featuring three original tracks, two covers, and five reimagined versions of her older material, Stripped reintroduces us to Macy Gray as a woman of many talents, not just singer-songwriter soul, that we had always suspected but hadn’t yet encountered.
Setting the tone for the rest of the record is Gray’s all-new opening track “Annabelle”, which begins with a wailing electric guitar and continues with bluesy instrumental overlays. The songwriting is impressive, describing breaking bad habits with gripping lines like “All I know of love is what they taught me/I loved all my guns until they shot me”. The next five tracks are all remakes of Gray’s other songs, like “Sweet Baby” which beats with an echoing rapid pitterpat of rhythm. The remake of “I Try”, the most notable track of her nearly two-decade spanning career, takes a lavish, jazz-infused turn as Gray takes time with the words on a bed of light percussion and soothing shimmers. When she tackles Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, it is a thoughtful tribute to the iconic track. Sung with quiet, aching passion and almost discomfort, Gray preserves its sound and integrity. “The Heart” sits heavy at the end of the record, as Gray’s raspy voice narrates a missed connection with love against delicate, unobtrusive instrumentals. When she howls “I’m begging please don’t you leave”, it sounds like the auditory representation of a breaking heart.
On Stripped, Grammy-winning artist Macy Gray informs us that there is still much to unearth about her. The record is raw in the form of creative revamping, considerate covers, and tediously thought out but brand new material that encourages listeners to reconsider everything they’ve associated with some of their favorite tracks. In doing this, Macy Gray gives her fans free rein to interpret, imagine, and be inspired — which is exactly what Gray has done herself on this record. Stripped is Macy Gray reviving herself as a contributor to the jazz music she has been inspired by her whole life.