September 21, 2018 Macy Gray – Ruby (Album Review)
Macy Gray. The name immediately brings to mind the distinctive, raspy voice that lit up the charts around the world back in 1999 with the hit single “I Try.” Well, don’t look now, but that was nearly two decades ago! Signing on with Epic Records in 1998, a year later Gray released her debut album, On How Life Is, a massive success which launched the R&B singer’s career. A career full of color, Gray has been rather prolific over the past two decades, releasing eight more albums, working steadily as an actress in film/television, and performing live. Now, the Grammy award winning Gray is back with her new album, Ruby, on Friday, September 21, 2018 via Artistry Music, a Mack Avenue Records imprint.
Consisting of twelve songs, Ruby is a follow-up to Gray’s impressive 2016 jazzy album, Stripped – an effort that won her an Independent Music Award in 2017. Sticking with a quick turn around between material, as per her entire recording career, Ruby is also a milestone for Gray, marking her tenth overall studio album. Working with everyone from Gary Clark Jr., who offers some killer guitar on the opening “Buddha,” to fellow Singer-Songwriter Meghan Trainor on the album’s lead single “Sugar Daddy,” Ruby has a lot to offer in between the confines of its over forty minutes of music.
A broad statement, it is important to understand Gray’s music to understand her knack for diversity. Always known to try different things over the years, she has experimented with Rock, Pop, Blues, Soul, and Jazz as additives to her unique R&B flavor. Of course, the unmistakable voice of Gray over the top is what makes it all truly her own – that is seeing few, if any, modern artists can replicate her. Then comes the songwriting, something not to be overlooked since Gray is also quite an efficient lyricist who paints pictures with words, all while provoking a smile time after time thanks to her clever associations.
With Ruby, Gray keeps the vibe smooth, catchy, and fun. That is not to say there are not more serious matters at hand here, as heard on “White Man,” a song that confronts the issue of race relations in the USA today. There are also insightful songs laced throughout, including the gospel textured “Buddha,” jazzy “Cold World,” and irresistible R&B closing cut “Witness.” Then there are songs like “Tell Me,” which utilizes some classic horns and a retro style of singing that will evoke thoughts of a smokey Jazz club somewhere down in New Orleans seven decades earlier.
Just a few of the standout moments on Ruby, in truth, each song has its own unique personality, one which is not replicated. It is as if Gray created each tune at a different time and place, all with a different sound in mind. That said, they also fit together rather nicely and flow seamlessly, making for an enjoyable, never dull listening experience. Further examples of such are “When It Ends,” where the vocals emote the sorrow between each word, but also more upbeat moments as heard on “Jealousy” and the playful “Shenanigans.”
Overall, Gray does a sensational job of piecing together an album that is unique to anything anyone else is doing today – musically or production wise, and that is breath of fresh air. Each song has its own ghost and shines in its own light, so it would be unfair to compare them against one another. Ruby is not only a worthy follow-up to Stripped, it is an album that should light up mainstream Pop charts thanks to its ingenuity and attention to detail. Music with soul is what we need, and Macy Gray gifts it generously with Ruby! That is why CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.