For all the sparkle of 'Like a Star' and old school charm of 'Put Your Records On', there were no classics on Corinne Bailey Rae's debut. That's something she puts right with the first song on 'The Sea'. 'Are You Here' begins with a fragile vocal and downbeat arrangement before a huge emotional rush comes out of nowhere. Even after repeated listens it still startles.
Built around grief and memory, 'The Sea' is soul music in the broadest sense of the term. With Bailey Rae stronger as a singer and writer, this record is more convincing when moving in different directions - from sad to sensuous to upbeat - but it is in the rawness of 'Love's on Its Way', the title track and 'Are You Here' where it has the most power.
'The Sea' shows that Bailey Rae has far more depth as an artist than many were willing to believe, and while her first album found its way into the lives of a lot of people, this one has the potential to reach, console and inspire many more. At times uneasy but always beautiful listening.