In interviews, Corinne Bailey Rae has claimed Nirvana and Led Zeppelin as influences. But when she made her Boston debut at the Paradise on Friday night, the 27-year-old English girl seemed far from the average rock chick.
Model-thin and demurely dressed in a gauzy , pale jade dress, the bi racial Rae looked a picture of simple elegance as she sang songs that encompassed soul, blues, and jazz. Pop too. But not rock.
When she spoke, her voice had lovely Yorkshire tones. When she sang, her voice was a soft , worldly purr. In some songs, her words fell in a steady staccato stream, recalling Bjork's cadence. In others there was that undeniable -- and oft-recalled by many an ingénue -- nod to Billie Holiday's winsome ache. Still, Rae set about establishing her own voice among the neo-soul-jazz cadre that numbers Sade, Macy, Erykah, Norah, et al.
So far, so good. On release in Britain last winter, her self-titled debut, which was issued in the US in June, hit number one on the pop charts. In Boston, there was enough buzz to sell out the Paradise way ahead of the show date.
During her performance, Rae switched between standing at the mike and sitting to play acoustic guitar. Her superb six-piece band, which included two female backing vocalists, created a live sound that was bolder than that on her airy mellow recording: ``Trouble Sleeping" had a slow , funky grind and a hip - hop swagger; the ballad ``Breathless" glistened as the backing singers added super-tight, soufflé - light harmonies; and the wistful ``Put Your Records On" was a celebratory pop-soul crowd pleaser.
When Rae announced she would cover a Led Zeppelin song, it seemed she might ditch her café society cool and rock out. But as she passionately belted out ``Since I've Been Loving You," she powered straight past rock, right to the blues. Rae rocks all right, her own way.
Two new major-label singer-songwriters, Gran Bel Fisher and Kevin Devine, opened, each offering up earnest, smart, but peppy sets.