When this arrived for appraisal here at Leedham Towers my first reaction on looking at the packaging, which I have to say is excellent, was that here was another American country rock crossover singer. So imagine my surprise when the biography I read told me that Mim Grey hails from the North London borough of Barnet in England. Now those of you that can see the cover, depending of course where you are reading this, will probably be wondering how I came to that initial incorrect conclusion. Well if I tell you the back cover has her sat on straw bales dressed in cowboy boots, white vest top and jeans cradling an acoustic guitar and that on the inside she is even carrying a battered cowboy hat and wearing a leather jacket you might see where I am coming from. Especially after perusing the song titles, as they are very American country like.
The first thing you notice when you put “Grey Matters” on is that Mim Grey has an excellent voice. If a voice can be pretty then that is the case here. That though brings with it its own problems as well and that is the only real downside to this album. It is just too nice and in places doesn’t know what it wants to be. Musically it veers from pure English folk to the old time country sound that I expected in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong, there is not an off note or a bad song anywhere to be found on here. The problem is that in places it just gets too nice and dare I say boring.
Grey is similar in looks and vocal style to Shania Twain and is obviously going to be compared to her. Nowhere is that more evident than on what for me is the best track on the album ‘Sunday Best’. It is faster and more upbeat than most of the tracks and could have been lifted straight off “Come On Over”. Think ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ type of thing and you won’t be too far wrong. It is probably the best song on the album and is certainly the most enjoyable. Whether that is a good thing for Grey I’m not sure but I would guess the Nashville brigade would take to her very easily.
Other highlights include the opener ‘Purple Sky’ which is a nice laid back jazz like track with some nice Spanish flamenco guitar and a relaxed easy vocal. The song grabs the listeners attention and Grey’s sweet voice ensures you will stay around for the rest of the album. ‘The Wind Keeps Callin’ is in a similar vein to the opener but has a more English folk feel musically although it retains an American feel vocally. The closing track ‘Wait Til The Storm Is Over’ also has a nice jazz feel and features some good piano work throughout. ‘Lay Your Head Down’ and ‘Too Pretty To Cry’ are both mid paced ballads with nice melodies but the lyrics are just a little too cheesy American country for me on the latter. The best two melodies on the album though may just belong to ‘Castles In The Snow’ which has a beautiful melancholy feel and some nice guitar underneath the vocal and ‘Angel’ which is similarly full of melancholia but is a little slower. The rest of the tracks on the album are all good and easy to listen to even if they are never going to live long in the memory after the album is finished.
“Grey Matters” is on the whole a good album from an excellent singer and its only real problem is that it lacks passion and is a bit too safe. Grey obviously has a nice sweet voice and that has been highlighted here to great effect. However, I can hear the potential for something a bit more passionate in her delivery and would love to hear her tackle some more bluesy or soulful material rather than becoming too submerged in chocolate box sentimentality. The overall impression here is that her voice is capable of far more. Despite that though this is still a very fine album and I for one will be looking forward to the second one …… especially if it has a bit more passion.
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM October 2011