Gemma Ray – “100mph (in 2nd Gear)”

GemmaRayLightsOutZoltarGemma Ray already has one album under her belt, The Leader (released in the U.K. in 2008), and she’ll soon be releasing her sophomore effort, Lights Out Zoltar!  (which is already out in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).  Oft-compared to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Duffy for her retro musical and vocal style, Gemma sounds like neither, staking out the middle ground between Amy’s deeper smokiness and Duffy’s lighter croon, with a toothsome, toffee-like tone and plucky, British inflection, melodramatically expressive amid a lush backdrop of varied instrumentation including sweeping strings, strummed guitars, horn accents, and tambourine tap.

 The lead-off single, “100mph (in 2nd Gear)” can be found at Gemma’s MySpace profile and it’s a torchy, fervent affair of the heart spiked with melodic, island-like xylophone notes, drawn orchestral strings, and a ghostly moaning-vocals backdrop, with Gemma emoting with longing, her vocals taking flight on the chorus sections, charged with regret and a yearning for the unattainable. 

 Two other attractions from her up-coming album are also at her MySpace profile, “Fist of a Flower” and “(You Got Me In A) Death Roll”, and they prove that the single is no fluke.  “Fist of a Flower”, with its sighing, layered harmonies, chiming notes, and tambourine harks back to the 1960s girl group sound, while the noir, Mark Lanegan-like co-vocals on the swamp blues trawl of “(You Got Me In A) Death Roll” add some ballast to Gemma’s softer tone and the repeated, heaving sway of the chorus, calling to mind Mark’s work with Isobel Campbell.

 This brief album sampler shows off a textured production with orchestral instrumentation, rich, layered harmonies, supremely sticky melodies, and lyrics that exude the bittersweet blues.  The tunes are retro, but not in a dusty ‘n’ musty way; they sound in full flower, rife with dramatic and melancholic power.

 Check out Gemma’s songs at: