Brand New Day

Exclaim! - - REVIEWS - KYLE MULLIN

Macy Gray

Ruby

“There are cas­tles in my sand, and I got a horn sec­tion in my band,” Macy Gray speaks­ings with pal­pa­ble ex­cite­ment on “Over You,” one of the many jazzy R&B stand­outs on her new LP, Ruby. It gleams like a pristinely pro­duced jewel in com­par­i­son to Gray’s aptly named 2016 LP, Stripped, which con­sisted of raw, over­dub-free takes from the singer and a small band. Ruby finds the 50-year-old R&B vet (best known for her 1999 hit “I Try”) nim­bly nav­i­gat­ing be­tween the old and new. Prime ex­am­ple: “Tell Me,” on which Gray sings over Louis Arm­strongesque bray­ing horns, be­fore a skit­ter­ing trap beat seeps in.

A pair of Ruby tracks stand above the rest. “White Man” be­gins with sub­dued jazz, as Gray as­sertively threat­ens big­ots: “I’ll whip your woooooo.” That word­less moan may be de­void of mean­ing on pa­per, but in the singer’s hands, it con­tains chill­ing mul­ti­tudes. Ruby’s other can’t-miss track is “Wit­ness,” which be­gins with pi­ano notes and a tight loop of in­de­ci­pher­able hums that slowly sim­mer with in­ten­sity. It’s a grip­ping be­gin­ning, and from there Gray and her band draw on el­e­ments of reg­gae to knock out an epic bal- lad. Even though her days of ra­dio dom­i­nance are be­hind her, she sounds bolder and more cre­ative than ever on this new LP. (Mack Av­enue, www.mack­av­enue.com)

Ruby is much more elab­o­rate than Stripped. What in­spired that?

Stripped was one mic, my­self and the mu­si­cians, and we just did takes, no over­dub­bing or mix­ing. It was some­thing I al­ways wanted to do. But Ruby is a fully pro­duced pop al­bum, and the process was to­tally dif­fer­ent.

While the pop el­e­ment is ev­i­dent, you don’t shy away from tough topics, es­pe­cially on “White Man.”

That one’s about to­day be­ing a new day, and how peo­ple that aren’t caught up to that, it’s very sad for them. But my re­sponse to them is: “I’m not my grand­mother, this isn’t the ’50s, and I don’t have to sit back and take it.” The most im­por­tant line on that song is: “They’re hat­ing me and I don’t un­der­stand.” That’s real per­sonal for me, be­cause I just don’t get racism. I mean, every­body has laughed at racial jokes and stuff like that. But to hate some­one, and wish them bad and act on that hate? I don’t get how you can feel that way.

R& B

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