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Lonely Are The Brave
A rule-breaking, shapeshifting braid of hip hop and soul.
Celina Murphy, 12 Jan 2012
As a teenager living in Co. Wexford, London-born rapper and songwriter Maverick Sabre (real name Michael Stafford) was doing pretty well for himself, making CDs in his bedroom and selling them in the schoolyard out of his rucksack. A few years later, things got even better. Having forged a connection with Rap Ireland, he was opening for visiting superstars like The Game and Lloyd Banks. When Plan B came to town, Sabre’s versatile vocal made him the obvious choice to support.
What happened next was remarkable. In a twist straight out of the Strickland Banks saga, Plan B offered the young musician a spot on his UK tour and a bed in his home in London, in a bid to help him get his debut album together.
The resulting record, titled Lonely Are The Brave (a possible reference to a 1962 Western of the same name), has remained a mystery until now, save for two wildly contrasting singles: ‘Let Me Go’, based on Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’ (which in turn samples an Isaac Hayes joint), proved that Sabre was capable of big, glossy, cinematic, Cheryl Lynn-sized R&B; ‘I Need’, meanwhiile, was a return to the folk-infused hip hop of his earlier, independent releases (I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a crude version showed up on that homemade CD of his).
Still, nothing could have prepared me for this. Eschewing pretty much every cliché in UK Urban music, Sabre’s album is honest, original, articulate, challenging and, as it happens, remarkably collaboration-free. Equal parts of the 14-tracker are devoted to hip hop and soul, oscillating between the ‘60s and the ‘90s, and for the most part, it’s a seamless transition from A to B and back.
There is only one issue and it has to be mentioned: many critics have noted Maverick’s vocal resemblance to Amy Winehouse, and in places Lonely Are The Brave confirms it. Indeed the Ronettes-esque ‘No One’ seems tick just about every one of the deceased singer’s essential boxes, right down to the protagonist’s plight – that of a bitter, jilted lover. But Sabre is no copycat. Elsewhere, the 21 year-old spits, sings and soars in a totally, refreshingly, unfamiliar voice – a London drawl with a reggae lilt that even allows, on occasion, a flash of the Wexford accent to break through.