Album Review | Black Hen Music | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Despite her youth, Canadian singer Maya Rae is in possession of an extraordinarily mature voice, a voice very much versed in jazz, as exemplified in the songs on her debut album Sapphire Birds, made up largely of jazz standards with just a couple of originals, including the title cut. For her second release, recorded and released whilst still under the voting age, Maya stretches out her writing abilities, co-writing all eleven songs with her brother Gabriel Evan. Singing professionally since the tender age of twelve, Maya has performed widely, occasionally with some notable Canadian jazz musicians and for this release, she has sought the assistance of the cream of contemporary Americana, including Steve Dawson, who also produces, Kai Welch, JT Nero and Allison Russell, with a fine rhythm section of Jamie Dick on drums and John Estes on bass.
The title track “Can You See Me?” opens the album with a broad smile of a welcome, an invitation to stay a little longer, to join the party, grab a drink and leave your coat over there somewhere. In uncertain times it’s hugely satisfying to be made to feel this much at home. “The Sun Will Come Out Again” is an achievement in itself, a bold melodic statement that falls somewhere between The Beatles and ELO, with an optimistic message and a storyline you have no desire to leave. There’s a confidence in Maya’s voice and perhaps a vulnerability too, but it’s also utterly convincing and as impressive as anything you imagine a seventeen year old with such an obvious talent might come up with. If the voice smoulders through all five and a half minutes of “Freedom Fighter”, then the question of how this could be created by someone so young arises. The same could be asked of “New For Me”, a song Maya claims to be about her first love and how to figure out her emotions. The healthy mixture of an assured voice, the standard of these siblings’ songwriting skills, the contributions made by such venerable company, along with Dawson’s informed arrangements, this album couldn’t be anything other than a sure fire winner. A class act and a performer to watch out for.
Choice Track: The Sun Will Come Out Again (NSV 500)