Maverick Sabre – Lonely Are the BraveCultureMusicAlbum reviews
Maverick Sabre’s androgynous, undeniably soulful and gritty vocals have stirred and excited crowds in tiny venues across London during his ascent to fame. So his debut album Lonely are the Brave is hugely anticipated. After collaboration with Professor Green on the club smash Jungle, which won an NME Award (Best Dance Floor-Filler) and EP The Lost Words reached number two on the iTunes chart, Maverick Sabre appeared on both Jools Holland’s and BBC2 from Glastonbury.
He has spent the past year touring with Snoop Dogg, Cee-Lo Green and Plan B. Back in July last year, at Camden’s Jazz Café, after the release the rap-heavy, story-heavy, knowledge-heavy and completely unapologetic EP Travelling Man in September 2010, Maverick Sabre performed to a crowd that screamed the request of I Need as an encore. Travelling Man is a fraught, honest and hurtful collection of songs, filled with seemingly unrelated musical associations.
Vocally and rhythmically, both Bob Dylan and Isaac Hayes heavily influence Maverick Sabre. At the same time, previous tracks such as Run To The Roof on Travelling Man are acutely reminiscent of indie band TV On The Radio and his heartbroken lyrics point to Bon Iver. How can this translate to a commercial Pop album like Lonely Are The Brave? Some tidy production has condensed previously bitter songs into melancholic ones.
The drive towards honest lyricism has shone through in tracks such as Memories and a nod to the influence of Isaac Hayes is heard in the sampling of Ike’s Rap II on debut single Let Me Go. Open My Eyes trips over itself with tumbling layered vocals, and every line is a gem. I Used To Have It All is a heart-breaking call to arms for a chronically cynical generation. Shootin’ The Stars screams the anger of the wronged in society and timelessly engages with the sadness of lost optimism.
Lonely Are The Brave is scattered with insights from a refreshingly aware and grounded lyricist – this is something that music needs: anger in perfect balance with intelligence and assurance. Potentially troubling is the desire to tie up the loose ends and reign in the roughness of earlier tracks. The vintage, soulful feel of Lonely Are The Brave is sure to propel it into popularity.
The penultimate track A Change is Gonna Come is a stunning Sam Cooke cover, which proves (if proof were needed) the power and scale of this timeless and current voice. This track is completely stripped down to a purity of vocals and piano, a total change of pace after previous track Running Away, an ascendant Pop tune with a relentlessly catchy bass-line and clapping percussion, but more pessimistic lyrics (‘a change don’t seem to come and my faith don’t seem enough’).
Tracks like These Days and Cold Game are sure to hit a nerve in the shadow of the London riots. It would be sad to see Maverick Sabre cast off as another neo-Soul vocalist, jumping onto the Amy Winehouse bandwagon. He is much more than this. The album certainly reflects the time that it was made. The choice of the Sam Cooke cover, its tone and position in the album seems to mirror a kind of poignant hopefulness that can be felt in society today (‘it’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come’) – things may be bad, but resistance, unity and determination will see us through.
The album closes on a short, live performance. It seems the gigs won’t have lost their edge. Hopefully, they are only set to get better – more impassioned, more unified and powerful – more piercing and defined than ever before.
Catch him in London at the Camden Roundhouse on 10th March. Maverick Sabres’ U.K tour kicks off on 1st March at the O2 Academy, Glasgow. Lonely Are The Brave is out now on Mercury Records.
Watch Maverick Sabre – ‘Lonely Are The Brave’ album sampler here