by Nolan DeBuke
Five years in the making Jamie Cullum is back with a new album Taller, set to release June 7th with Blue Note Records in the U.S., and Island Records elsewhere. This is Cullum’s eighth release to date. Written and recorded at the home of long-time friend and collaborator, Troy Miller (Emeli Sandé, Mark Ronson, Laura Mvula), the 10-track record is a personal statement. Jamie says, ‘‘I was really focusing on this is being an album of my songs. I wanted it to be about my songs, about my writing. It was also a love letter to my wife. I wanted to put aside whether it was a jazz record, whether it was ticking this or that box. The songs would be king and they would be honest. Sometimes it was literally just me sitting at the piano, pressing record; and at other times it was just myself and Troy trying to capture something that felt authentic. I didn’t really know what I was making at first. Of course I care and of course I’d love people to hear it, but I feel more proud of this than anything I’ve done and that’s a good feeling.’’
The title track “Taller,” offers a soulful R&B sound, and Cullum waxes poetic. ‘‘Historically there has been jokes about my physical stature and being married to a taller woman. So I wanted to own it and it seemed like a great image to take, one that could be perceived as vulnerability and yet, vulnerability turning out to be a super power, rather than a weakness.’’ His voice resonates with a clear and powerful command, with hip beats and modern sensibilities the laidback – backbeat, sets the tone for the provocative lyrics. Cullum is sensuous as he soulfully belts out “I just wanna be next to you.” A lasting tribute to the devotion he has for his wife.
“Drink,” alternatively is a poignant ballad, that finds Cullum sussing out his emotions and conveying them in a way that is accessible to the listener. Cullum explains, “It’s about dealing with things that are troubling and confusing, but how in taking them on, there is a freedom inherent in that, and suddenly they aren’t so black and white, but nuanced. It turns out the grey is where the truth lies.” The cut has a gospel-pop reverence, his voice is unaffected and reveals an organic truth serum at times accompanied by strings, as his piano lays down chords that add to the dynamics of the tune. With each passing verse and chorus Cullum builds the intensity to a crescendo that leaves you wanting more.
Taller is Cullum coming into his own, unapologetically exposing his vulnerabilities through his songs with a commanding prowess that is memorable and driven by his own emotions. His songs are heartfelt, honest and connect with the listener in a real way, that proves Cullum’s staying power as an artist.