Malaya Blue is complicated.
She has a voice that is satin smooth, velvet deep and flexible – able to sing soul, Blues, rock & roll and all with a sense of ease that is remarkable. And yet … she isn’t any of those things and it took me a lot of listening to this album to even decide if I liked it or not (shock – I did). But with every listen I got a slightly better understanding of her as a singer and there are a few tracks on here that rank with anything I’ve heard this year or last.

She has surrounded herself with Grammy winners and top session musicians but isn’t overwhelmed by them – the focus is on her voice and that is as it should be.

Right out with the title track. It is a gorgeous piece of jazz-tinged soul with her voice front and centre, the whole number hinged on her vocal performance and in particular on one uttering of the word “Still” that hangs in the air and makes it impossible to ignore the purity and the sheer heart in her voice. That leads into a funkier number ‘Down To The Bone’ where she opens it with a grunt so raunchy and sex-ridden that I couldn’t believe it was the same vocalist and carries on with a really Bluesy performance that shows an entirely different Malaya Blue. My personal favourite number is the pure gospel/soul of ‘Why Is Peace So Hard’ where her vocal is exquisitely painful (in a good way).

And it goes on all through the album. She seemingly switches between Aretha, Minny Ripperton, Maria Muldaur as easily as tapping her fingers and it is all natural, all within her incredible vocal range. There are a couple of points where she doesn’t quite hit the earthiness that the song needs but in the main she is spot on.

I think she is a great singer and this album, in the main, confirms that she is at the top of the game – quite stunning.

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