Published Sep 14, 2018"There are castles in my sand, and I got a horn section in my band," Macy Gray speak-sings with palpable excitement on "Over You," one of the many jazzy R&B standouts on her new LP, Ruby. Her chemistry with her bandmates, along with the album's producers, is evident. And there's little wonder why — Ruby gleams like a pristinely produced jewel in comparison to Gray's aptly named 2016 LP Stripped, which consisted of raw, overdub free takes for the singer and a small band.
Other Ruby tracks find the 50-year-old R&B vet (best know for her inescapable 1999 hit "I Try") nimbly navigating between the old and new. Prime example: "Tell Me," on which Gray sings over Louis Armstrong-esque braying horns, before a skittering trap beat seeps in.
Strong as those aforementioned songs are, a pair of Ruby tracks stand head and shoulders 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 ballad.
Don't dismiss Gray as a one hit wonder for "I Try." Even though her days of radio dominance are well behind her, she sounds bolder and more creative than ever on this new LP. (Mack Avenue Records)