For this week’s Debut Review we’re thrilled to be showcasing an EP from Kompetes’ network of emerging artists. Dublin based singer songwriter NC Grey’s Magic is a glorious fusion of jazz, soul and RnB. Though the 4 track EP isn’t officially released until next week, we managed to grab a cheeky listen. Here’s what we thought.

The record kicks off with Holiday, an energetic opener bursting with jazzy energy. Frenetic drums and bass clear the path for Grey’s voice to lead the way. And what a voice it is. Mellow, rich and expertly controlled, Grey’s vocals tremble with an enchanting vibrato. When layered in the chorus, the result is a truly uplifting symphony of sound.

We skip on to Adonis, Grey’s ode of adoration to a mystery lover.  This track weaves staccato piano with a smooth shuffle in a fresh fusion of neo soul and jazz. Grey’s influences are particularly clear here. We can hear the smoky confessional tones of Amy Winehouse mixed with the confidence of Jill Scott and Anita Baker.

Things take a turn on Toxic Love. This slow and atmospheric track highlights Grey’s impressive range. Low and composed, her voice is as at its most compelling when scaling the depths. Clearly that Dublin air has had an effect too as there’s an almost folksy texture to Grey’s storytelling. ‘I could dress you up / smile and talk the talk / but we both know / you’re cold as a rock’ she sings in the refrain.

Ending this exciting EP is the beautiful title track Magic. Grey aches with longing in this stripped back and dreamy cut. Dancing around guitarist Darren Bell’s restrained melody, Grey vocals feel more fragile here. It’s as if she’s asking us to follow her on a journey into the unknown. And such is the enchantment of her performance that anyone would find it tough to say no.

Props must go to Les Keye’s excellent production too. Throughout, the veteran Irish musician uses instrumentation to support Grey without ever stealing the limelight. From Rhodes solos to silky string tones, every choice feels justified and well considered.

The real charm of Magic though is its distinctly live feel. Paying homage to the greats of soul and jazz, this record is slick without being over polished. It’s no surprise then that Grey has a great live reputation following spellbinding sets at the Cork Jazz and Body and Soul festivals. Each track feels so honest and exposed that they could have been recorded in one take.

Fans of jazz and vintage RnB will love this confident and ambitious debut. It’s short and it’s sweet but Magic has got us very excited for what NC Grey has in store. It’s available from the 29th of September but you can pre-order the album from her official website now.

Kompetes says: 4/5

Standout track: Adonis

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