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Rene Marie: Black Lace Freudian Slip

Christopher Loudon reviews one of last year's most exciting jazz vocal releases.

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René Marie doesn’t care what this review says. She makes that clear right off the top in the title track, a nakedly bold career mission statement that dismisses the “blah-blah-blah of critics.” But what everyone else needs to know is that Black Lace Freudian Slip cements Marie’s place among the vocal elite. The voice is as stunning as always, her phrasing immaculate, her ability to pack emotional wallops equaled by very few. As a songwriter and story renderer, weaving profound tales of despair and triumph, championing her beliefs about empowerment and personal fulfillment, she shares a plateau with the likes of Nina Simone, Oscar Brown Jr. and Joni Mitchell.

The title track also emphasizes Marie’s tendency toward “shooting straight from the hip,” a passion she has been exercising since the onset of her late-breaking career. Indeed, Marie’s very existence as a vocalist is a result of her admirable stalwartness. When, at age 41, she was issued an ultimatum from her husband of 23 years that it was either music or marriage, she chose music and has never looked back. In the liner notes to her sophomore release, 2001’s Vertigo, she said, “It’s not like I have an agenda. But since I returned to performing, I discovered I have something to say.” Since then, Marie has been steadily shaping profound musical statements, both personal and public, culminating with her maelstrom-igniting decision in 2008 to recast “The Star-Spangled Banner” using the lyrics of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” at the mayor’s State of the City address in Denver, her adopted hometown. That incident, which escalated to death threats, informed Marie’s earlier 2011 album, Voice of My Beautiful Country, an affecting portrait of individualistic patriotism.

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