Jul 13, 2006
Article on Marjorie Fair Acoustic with Corinne Baily Rae
By Tom Roland
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Truly great artists earn
their place through a delicate balancing act of two opposing
traits: the good taste to build on the foundations of the
accomplished performers who have come before them, and enough
independence to rearrange those influences in a way that makes
the newcomer unique.
England's Corinne Bailey Rae, who performed Monday at the
Troubadour, has the goods to become a truly great artist. For
now, she could become this year's creative equivalent of Norah
Jones, a neo-classic singer with a sound so refreshingly
old-school that it is almost daring in the way it goes against
the grain of current pop.
Bailey Rae -- whose self-titled debut album was released
stateside last week after a No. 1 U.K. debut this year -- has
the clear resonance of Erykah Badu but occasionally folds in
the sleepy rasp that accompanied Billie Holiday's work. But
where Badu is a somewhat distant performer and Holiday cut a
tragic swath, Bailey Rae presented her fluttering melodies with
an engaging innocence.
Bailey Rae unveiled several more influences. She turned Led
Zeppelin's slow-churning blues number "Since I've Been Loving
You" into a classic torch song, then closed the piece with a
Janis Joplin-like undercurrent. She also cited Stevie Wonder as
the source for "Seasons Change," stocked with thick "Key of
While referencing so many performers with ties to the past,
Bailey Rae was unequivocally present in the moment,
experiencing each measure of music as it passed, remaining
sensitive and centered whether she was cooking up a light-funk
groove or an understanding mellow.
The four-piece rhythm section (augmented by two backup
singers) mirrored her approach with an understated precision
that incorporated spare but meaty bass notes, layered
electronic keyboards and Steve Cropper-like minimalistic
Bailey Rae is gaining steam on smooth jazz playlists,
though that's a bit misleading. On Monday, she ably captured
the relaxed qualities that embody most of that genre's music,
but she avoided its predictability and tapped into an elegant
emotionalism that requires -- and rewards -- much more active
listening. Her intoxicatingly cheery disposition contrasted with the
35-minute set of opening act Evan Slamka, lead singer of
Marjorie Fair. Performing solo with an acoustic guitar, he
likewise reminded the listener of a well-established
standard-bearer: His tenor sounded much like Bono without the Edge.
Lit in a shadowy, mysterious manner, Slamka repeatedly
offered rainy-day songs that required him to hold extended
notes in the strongest part of his tenor, the chords beneath
changing ever so slightly to give the material a fluctuating
melancholy. Ethereal lyrics and sketchy images provided a
1960s-era flair, creating a bittersweet sonic atmosphere.
That only enhanced the complementary opposition at work in
Bailey Rae's music. The two performers struck a balance between
sadness and joy, just as she tread confidently between grit and
refinement, between old and new, between freedom and restraint.
It is that seamless blend of contrasts that makes the great