Maya Azucena - Cry Love (2011)

Maya Azucena

Maya Azucena Cry Love.jpg

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I first saw Maya Azucena perform in 2007 at the SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Awards, where she was nominated for an award and slated to perform during the ceremony.  One of my strongest memories from that event took place while Azucena was singing “Junkyard Jewel.” The audio went out. That audio malfunction would have been enough to stop a lot of performers cold.  Azucena not only continued singing, she didn’t miss a beat. That kind of focus was kind of inspirational, and that earnest focus that Azucena brings as a performer is part of what makes the inspirational tone of Cry Love – Azucena’s latest CD – so genuine.

I first saw Maya Azucena perform in 2007 at the SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Awards, where she was nominated for an award and slated to perform during the ceremony.  One of my strongest memories from that event took place while Azucena was singing “Junkyard Jewel.” The audio went out. That audio malfunction would have been enough to stop a lot of performers cold.  Azucena not only continued singing, she didn’t miss a beat. That kind of focus was kind of inspirational, and that earnest focus that Azucena brings as a performer is part of what makes the inspirational tone of Cry Love – Azucena’s latest CD – so genuine.

In a way, making an inspirational record can be kind of risky – especially for someone who is not viewed as a Gospel singer. Perhaps Azucena looked around at the bleak time facing so many people and concluded that listeners needed to hear something meatier than a simple love song or dance tune. So, while Azucena doesn’t totally forego addressing affairs of the heart, even a song like “Changed My Mind” goes beyond the pale, speaking to the transformational effect that romantic love can have.

Spirituality also takes a prominent role on Cry Love. Azucena doesn’t aim for over-the-top peachiness. Instead she uses a pop/rock cut such as “Near” to remind listeners that God is an invisible but omnipresent force who is never more than a prayer away. Azucena assumes the voice of the Almighty to encourage the listener to remember that God is a friend.

The reggae tune “My Back’s Not Up Against the Wall,” a mid-tempo cut on which the vocalist sings words of encouragement to herself, serves as the perfect compliment to the song that follows - the funky “Run Into the Light.” On this song, Azucena sings about pressing through obstacles to reach an ultimate goal. Cry Love’s best song – “The Half” – is a funk/rock number in which the artist explores the efforts people make every day to wear a mask in order to keep their problems hidden from the world.

Perhaps the song that best summarizes the effect of Cry Love is “Little Ghetto Boy,” a duet between Azucena and Chris Rob.  It is a powerful cut, and not solely for the thematic area it covers. The vocal work that Azucena and Rob display throughout this polemical song is downright beautiful. You could even call “Little Ghetto Boy” inspirational. And that’s a pretty good adjective that one could use to describe Cry Love. Other folks might want to use “positive,” “spiritual” or “uplifting.” I’ll just settle for very, very good. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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