Blue Heart Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2020
If you’re a fan of The Voice you’ll certainly have seen a blind audition where the coaches hear such a stunning vocal performance that not only do all four of them turn, but they fight tooth and nail for the honor of being chosen by the singer as their coach. Malaya Blue has that kind of a voice.
“Still” is the third release for UK based contemporary blues singer/songwriter Malaya Blue. For the project: from collaborating on songwriting, to seeking advice and input, Malaya Blue teamed up with several Grammy Award winning artists and some of the finest musicians from the UK. Joining Malaya, on all vocals, are: Nat Martin on all guitars; Stevie Watts on Hammond, keys and piano; Mike Horne on drums and percussion; and Eddie Masters on bass. Special guests include Richard Cousins (Robert Cray Band) on bass and Sammie Ashforth on piano.
On “Still”, as a special advisor and collaborator, Malaya Blue turned to a gentleman that if I’m not careful, I could easily get sidetracked talking too much about. That would be none other than Grammy winner, BMA winner, songwriter, musician and producer extraordinaire – Dennis Walker. Attempting to simulate an LP, the disc presents its songs in a two side fashion with the “Still Side” featuring six songs lending themselves to soulful R&B and the “Blue Side” featuring six songs that……yeah, you get it. From a collaborations standpoint, all twelve are originals.
The title track, “Still”, was a song originally slated for a Robert Cray project and since it never did get recorded, bassist and composer Richard Cousins donated it to the cause. It’s an emotional and soulful ballad that features Richard (on his only appearance) and Mike laying down a refined, then rich rhythm; fabulous piano, organ, and guitar highlights by Stevie and Nat; and a stunning vocal performance by Malaya that will have you thinking “that’s what he was talking about in the opening paragraph”. Wow!
With drummer Mike Horne taking charge on another great rhythm-fueled track and guitarist Nat Martin shining as well, there are indeed some magical musical moments on “It’s A Shame”. That said, Malaya has her own wizardly things going on with the vocals. Between her lead and her own harmony and backup vocals she belts out one heck of a remarkable vocal performance. Replays will certainly be in order on this one.
Being someone who tends to get emotional when hearing of someone losing their life in war, the lyrics on “Why Is Peace So Hard”, combined with the powerfully emotional and melancholic vocals used by Malaya to deliver them, did indeed tear me up. The song, or more appropriately – the hymn, tells of a mother proudly seeing her son walk out the door as he left for war till the time she sees him return…..with a flag draped over his coffin as it comes off of a plane. The spirituality that Stevie Watts adds to the song with a masterful and mystical performance on the Hammond organ truly makes it worthy of being played at a mass for a fallen soldier. Easily worthy of a “Song Of The Year” nod, as well.
This is a perfect time for me to flip the record over to the ‘Blue Side’, while also taking a minute to compose myself…. phew!
Side two, so to speak, kicks off with a smoker called “Kiss My Troubles Away”. It’s kind of like a modern day “Working Nine To Five” song. For Malaya, there is nothing like coming home from a stressful day at work, tossing her keys on the counter, kicking her shoes off onto to floor, leaving a trail of her office clothes on the stairs behind her and happily seeing the person who kisses her troubles away. How cool of a compliment is that? Being told you kiss my troubles away. If she didn’t read my reviews, I’d actually try stealing that line and using it on the Blewzzlady. In a dual role, Malaya is once again blowing the roof off with her powerful lead and back up vocals and crazy good rhythm Stevie, Mike and Eddie are blowing out on the keys, drums and bass will surely have everyone heading to the dance floor.
On a song about losing and then finding love again, as Malaya sees it, falling “Down To The Bottom” is merely something that happens before going back up to the top. Sounding as confident as she does sultry, Malaya is sure she’ll once again find love. That’ a great attitude, inspiration and advice. Musically, the track has a velvety jazz lounge vibe.
On his only appearance, pianist Sammie Ashforth teams up with Malaya on a ballad so beautifully done that I imagined I was hearing the duet it in a Broadway production or a Carnegie Hall performance in which the audience sits there with their jaws dropped, amid a silence, allowing a dropped pin to be heard.
Other tracks on “Still” include: “Down To The Bone”; “Love Can Tell”; “Love Of Your Life”; “Settle Down Easy”; “These Four Walls”; and “Hot Love”.
Having been nominated for a handful of awards by the British Blues Association just a few short years ago, and now having the likes of Dennis Walker, Betsie Brown and Sallie Bengston in her corner, Malaya Blue seems poised to possibly add some American Blues award nominations to her credentials. Remember where you first heard it.
To find out more about Malaya Blue just go to her website – www.malayabluemusic.com Wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient