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The British soul singer and songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae made a big splash when she debuted in 2006 with her single "Put Your Records On."

(Soundbite of song, "Put Your Records On")

Ms. CORINNE BAILEY RAE (Singer): (Singing) Girl, put your records on. Tell me your favorite song. You go ahead let your hair down.

BRAND: The album landed on the Billboard charts. It sold millions of copies, and Corinne Bailey Rae earned a handful of Grammy nominations. Now she's back with her second album. It's called "The Sea."

Reviewer Tom Moon says this album is even more impressive than her debut.

TOM MOON: When a young singer has a hit right out of the gate, the way Corinne Bailey Rae did, you can usually guess what comes next: more of the same. It's understandable. These days, nobody in the music business likes to mess with success. That's one reason Bailey Rae's follow-up is so interesting. It's hardly a replica of what worked last time.

(Soundbite of song, "I'd Do It All Again")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) Ooh, you did it all again, you broke another skin. It's hard to believe this time, hard to believe that my heart, my heart's an open door. You got all...

MOON: Bailey Rae's second effort is a massive leap forward. As a songwriter, she's taking on deeper, more serious subjects, and she's become an absolutely fearless singer.

(Soundbite of song, "I'd Do It All Again")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) And I'd do it all again. I'd do it all again. I'd do it all again. I'd do it all again. You try sometimes, but it won't stop. You got my heart and my head's lost, oh, yeah. I've been burning down these candles for love, for love. So weary...

MOON: For a while after her debut, Bailey Rae was living the dream. She toured all over the world and collaborated with several of her idols, including legendary singer Al Green. Then, in early 2008, while she was working on this album, her husband died suddenly.

(Soundbite of song, "Are You Here")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) He's a real live wire. He's the best of his kind.

MOON: Bailey Rae spent months in seclusion. She says that when she returned to work, she was surprised to discover that songs she'd completed before the tragedy still resonated. She'd already been writing about grief. The title track describes a canoeing accident in which Bailey Rae's grandfather died. She pushed herself further in that direction, writing several songs that remember her late husband. This one's called "Are You Here"

(Soundbite of song, "Are You Here?")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) And he comes to lay me down in a garden of tuberose's.

MOON: Sadness runs throughout Bailey Rae's second album. It even lurks between the lines of upbeat tunes that showcase her fierce, intensely rhythmic delivery.

(Soundbite of song, "Paper Dolls")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) All my life, all my life, it's not right. Nobody told me I could do something. Nobody told me I could be something, yeah. I am trying. I am trying. There is no right. Nobody told me I could do something. Nobody told me I could be something.

MOON: Armchair pop culture psychologists will say that Bailey Rae's growth is the direct result of the death of her husband. That's an inevitable conclusion, but it shortchanges her.

What I hear in her mesmerizing vocals and the album's delicate blend of jazz, soul and pop is a profound artistic restlessness. She didn't just confront her grief. She pushed past whatever worked before until she landed on a sound that's thrilling and, at times, even bold.

(Soundbite of song, "I Would Like to Call it Beauty")

BRAND: The new album from Corinne Bailey Rae is called "The Sea." Our reviewer is Tom Moon. You can hear the entire album at

(Soundbite of song, "I Would Like to Call it Beauty")

Ms. RAE: (Singing) So young...

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