MusicReview

Maverick Sabre: Lonely Are the Brave - a fine reminder of the soul singer’s firepower

This rebound to the past recaptures the essence of the original recording while showing new depth

Lonely Are the Brave (Mav's Version)
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Artist: Maverick Sabre
Genre: Soul
Label: FAMM

Taylor Swift has a lot to answer for. The music industry has been gradually eroding artists’ rights – and their earnings – since the dawn of the streaming era. When Swift’s back catalogue was sold without her knowledge, she decided to wrest back control by simply re-recording her old albums. It was seen as a bittersweet victory for acts who have been downtrodden by The Man.

Now, Michael Stafford, aka Maverick Sabre, is following in Swift’s footsteps. The London-born, Wexford-raised soul singer made his name with his stellar 2012 debut but has never received royalties from the album, which was originally released on major label Mercury. Stafford’s career is still a going concern; he released his fourth album earlier this year on his own imprint FAMM, so this is not the act of a has-been musician who has landed on hard times.

Such projects do, however, throw up a conundrum: can the essence of that recording – all of the uniquely charming ingredients that comprise a debut album, from naivety to enthusiasm to rawness – really be recaptured, a whole decade on? In this case, the answer is yes – mostly. Stafford was still just 22 when it was released; now, at 32, he can arguably inhabit world-weary songs like Cold Game, Open My Eyes and I Used to Have It All with a hard-won authenticity.

There are minor sonic differences to some tracks. Memories is pitched half a key lower to accommodate Stafford’s changed voice, while the punchy edges of Let Me Go are softened by strings on the new version. Others have had a major overhaul. On Sometimes, he raps the verses instead of speaking them. And just like on the original, not every song hits the mark – the lacklustre I Don’t See the Sun gains no new dynamism here. Still, this album was never intended to be a note-by-note recreation; as Stafford said himself, it was important to “leave space for moments of how I create now”.

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A decade on, the Wexford man’s remarkable voice is arguably better than ever. Songs like These Days and I Used to Have it All continue to mark him out as a superb soul singer, above all else. There are several demos of new songs and a couple of unremarkable acoustic versions tacked on to make this package more appealing, but really, they’re unnecessary. He may yet release his magnum opus, but this rebound to the past is a fine reminder of the firepower within Maverick Sabre.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times