Terrific transatlantic collaboration from soul singers Terri Walker and Nicole Wray.
Natalie Shaw 2013
There’s very little as naturally affecting as vocal harmony done well. The human voice needs nothing material, no flashing lights, no context. There’s little as rousing and thrilling as two voices united as one, in a joint state of emotion.
Because of that very instinctive and perhaps old-fashioned reasoning, Lady’s debut album is a pleasure. There are no barriers between Terri Walker, Nicole Wray and the listener, the singers holding hands through glorious chorus upon glorious chorus.
Wray and Walker’s transatlantic pairing is beautifully natural. The Lady project wears its heart on its sleeve – it’s endlessly fixated on love, happiness and flipping the traditional gold-digger gender bias on its head. The shady characters it describes give the sense that it’s been written almost as a sequel to Etta James’ diaries.
Mercury Prize-nominated Londoner Walker previously collaborated with Mos Def and T. Williams, while Virginia-raised Nicole Wray was discovered by Missy Elliott at 17, going on to work with Kid Cudi and The Black Keys. Both have enjoyed solo success, but they’ve never sounded as at home as they do here.
Lead single Money is a perfect example of why – it’s all easy rhymes, light touches and luxurious Stax-evoking production. Hold On’s snappy phrases come easy to the pair, and showcase their perception, versatility and chemistry.
On the latter, solo verses build up to joint choruses, each singer acting as the other’s best friend and confidante, waiting in the wings to back up every word when the baton’s passed. Get Ready’s laid-back groove is perfectly executed too, and a moving homage to mid-60s soul.
Defiant, split-harmony assaults as emotional as this are hardly commonplace. A song like Sweet Lady, an ode to Wray and Walker’s mothers, would be weightless and saccharine in anyone else’s hands. But much like the rest of this record, its expression is so perfectly poised that it transports you right back to the birth of soul.
The raw power of Wray and Walker’s voices is astounding – and the way this album has been produced reels the listener all the way into the respectful nostalgia at the very heart of its creation.