Blues Bytes

Surprise

October 2020

Malaya Blue
Still

Blue Heart Records

Malaya Blues

United Kingdom blues singer / songwriter Malaya Blue is better known in her home country, but the release of Still (Blue Heart Records) is certain to earn her some new fans on this side of the ocean. She's a very nice blues singer, more sultry and subtle than blasting out a lot of power. For this third album by Ms. Malaya (pronounced Ma-lay-ar), Grammy award winner Dennis Walker came onboard as producer and also co-wrote many of the songs. Also contributing to the sessions were some of the UK's best studio musicians.

Former Robert Cray bass player Richard Cousins was recruited to help with the song selection. The title cut, "Still," was originally written by Cousins to be recorded by Cray, which makes it a delight that we finally get to hear it, a slow, late-night blues that features tasteful guitar accompaniment from Nat Martin while Cousins plays bass. The song takes its name from the recurring line, "... Cause there's still so much between us that only we can see ..." What a fantastic way to start this album!

There are plenty more highlights to be heard. "These Four Walls" is just plain outstanding, an up-tempo blues delivered over a steady drum beat. Malaya sings about her loneliness and inability to get over her previous love, repeating the line, "... just me and these four walls ..." Powerful. Perhaps a candidate for blues song of the year.

Malaya's spirited vocals drive the slow, soulful number with a strong gospel feel, "Why Is Peace So Hard?" Her vocals are packed with emotion, and eventually we find out that it's about a mother waiting for her son to come home from war, but sadly he's in a flag-draped coffin. The mother continually asks, "... Love's the only answer, ain't it worth a try? ..." Stevie Watts' organ playing is just the right accompaniment to Malaya's voice.

The energy level goes up on the mid-tempo blues, "Kiss My Troubles Away," with Malaya's sassy voice singing about the woman who gets home from work and it's time to unwind, until she hears that man moving around upstairs.

Malaya presents her R&B side on "It's A Shame," singing about how much she loves that man but it's not a mutual love. The slow blues, "I Can't Be Loved," gives Watts a chance to show off his virtuosity on the piano while Malaya sings about all of the past memories and heartaches that keep her from returning her man's love.

The songs mentioned above are my favorites, but quite frankly the whole album is strong. Still will hopefully get Malaya Blue the recognition she so deserves. Recommended.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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