Corinne Bailey Rae

Corinne Bailey Rae

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When songstress Corinne Bailey Rae released her sashaying single "Put Your Records On" in her native U.K. it was a feel-good adult alternative phenomenon -- a kind of Norah Jones, Joss Stone, David Gray, or Macy Gray phenomenon. One listen to her breakout soft soul anthem and it's easy to hear why, since Rae is a mix of all the above but not a contrived one concocted by some major label's scientist. Her self-titled debut sounds a wee rushed and sometimes meanders its way into background music territory, but this comfortable effort is pleasingly homegrown, warm, and poignant in parts, especially when Rae doesn't weaken her strong lyrics with space-filling "doo de do do do"s and "mmmmmmm"s. So if she doesn't make an Alicia Keys-size splash with her debut, she's still a breath of fresh air, and hardly a one-hit wonder. It's risky to open an album with a lazy ballad, but the great "Like a Star" paints Rae as Billie Holiday's pop-influenced granddaughter. Mellowing Style Council or Brand New Heavies fans should dig "Trouble Sleeping," while "Butterfly" beautifully captures the full range of emotions that come with leaving the nest. The well-written and direct "Butterfly" suggests Rae could release a more accomplished full-length someday, but attention to "feel" often seems like the driving force in this album's creation. Adjust your expectations accordingly and Rae's languid debut is very rewarding.

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