UK singer Corinne Bailey Rae is back with a new album, after soaring like a skyrocket on her debut 2006 set, and then vanishing just as quickly.
The death of her husband of seven years, Jason Rae, from a drug overdose in 2008 set her back on her heels. She drifted for a time afterward, trying to figure out why the tragedy came so soon after her success and what it all meant.
“I’m not familiar with that kind of shock that lasts all that amount of time,” she said in a recent interview. “It just sort of takes ages to sink it. You feel it and then you don’t feel it; you know what’s happened and then you don’t really know what happened.”
In the months after her husband died, Rae turned to the one outlet where she felt comfortable expressing her feelings and the result is her second album, The Sea.
She started work on the album before her husband’s death and finishing it afterward proved to be cathartic.
“There are other people that have had these similar experiences … all different kinds of loss, and I feel like a lot of people don’t really sing about it in popular music,” she said.
“I want to be that one voice that is saying that this is also a human experience that is worth making music about.”
Rae reprises the same lilting, jazz-inflected style that marked her eponymous debut album in 2006. The set went on to sell more than 2 million copies domestically and earned her four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist, and Best Song and Record for “Put Your Records On”.
The Sea’s opener, “Are You Here,” is spare and haunting, and was inspired by her husband’s death.
“A thread of melancholy connects the material; even in the album’s lightest moments, there is none of the girlish levity of a song like ‘Put Your Records On,’” writes Washington Post music critic Sarah Godfrey.
“Maturity, rather than sadness, is the dominant feature of The Sea, which comes off as an intimate tribute to her husband ‘This album, like everything I do, is made to try and impress Jason Bruce Rae,’ she writes in the liner notes, rather than a grim eulogy,” she adds.