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Corinne Bailey Rae -The Sea: (EMI)

Leeds singer Corinne Bailey Rae was one of the biggest success stories of 2006, with her self-titled, soul-lite debut album notching up four million sales worldwide.

After toiling in an indie band for years, her new-found recognition was especially sweet.

But then, on March 22, 2008, life as she knew it came to an end — her musician husband Jason Rae was found dead, the victim of a drug overdose. Bailey Rae retreated from the public view and a new crop of UK females came along in her slipstream.

She's emerged with this follow-up, an album that could hardly be more different to her first. Gone, are the frothy, radio songs of yore — in their place, melancholic, confessional biographical songs inspired by Jason's death.

In places, the heartbreak is so palpable some may be reduced to tears — the title track is devastating in its emotional nakedness, with the spare music and gentle vocals only serving to accentuate the grief: “The sea/the majestic sea/Breaks everything/Cleans everything/ Crushed everything/Takes everything from me”.

Some of the material was penned prior to her husband's death, lending the songs an added poignancy. The rousing I'd Do it All Again, apparently written after a huge bust-up between them, finds the singer offering assurances that love overcomes all obstacles. And in You Are Here — written after his passing — she sings about Jason in the present tense, and knowledge of the back story makes it particularly special.

Despite the anguish, there are life-affirming moments, a sense that this Yorkshire woman is coming to terms with her loss. Paris Nights/New York Mornings is a funky, upbeat number quite at odds with the songs around it, but it stands high as a beacon of hope and of love transcending all.

Burn it: Paris Nights/New York Mornings; The Sea; I Would Like to Call it Beauty

Belfast Telegraph