Lady Wray – Queen Alone review

Queen Alone is the tri­umphant return of soul­tress Nicole Wray. Once the pro­tégé of Mis­sy Elliot, Wray is a singer whose tal­ent has long gone unrecog­nised. Three years on from her col­lab­o­ra­tion with UK singer-song­writer Ter­ri Walk­er, Lady – and 18 years since her last solo project, Make It Hot – Wray has come good yet again.

If you’re famil­iar with Lee Fields & the Expres­sions, Myron & E, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings or Nicole Willis & the Soul Inves­ti­ga­tors, then you will adore Wray’s retro-soul sound. Just like the afore­men­tioned artists, this is music made with live instru­ments, buck­ets of expe­ri­ence and good, old-fash­ioned heart.

Wray’s peachy, Amer­i­can drawl has touch­es of Jean Knight (‘Under­neath My Feet’) and Aretha Franklin (‘Make Me Over’). She bears her soul on sto­ry of a down-and-out, ‘They Won’t Hang Around’, hits you with stir­ring cries on ‘Do It Again’, and lifts you on up with Cur­tis May­field-like can­dour on ‘Let It Go’. The instru­men­tals, mean­while, bring heady bursts of life with each gui­tar phrase (‘Smil­ing’) and rock­steady drum beat (‘Guilty’).

It feels unjust that, after being the vic­tim of major label mis­treat­ment in her ear­ly years and ris­ing above it with per­se­ver­ance and grace, Wray still does not receive half the atten­tion she so sore­ly deserves. Filled with the vibrant emo­tion and time­less rhythm of the 1960s, this record is a mas­ter­class in soul music.

Queen Alone is out now on Big Crown Records.

[This review was first pub­lished on, Dec 11, 2016.]

Image: Big Crown Records