The future looked bright for Rebecca Ferguson when she finished as the runner-up on the 2010 series of The X Factor. Losing out to Matt Cardle appeared to be a good thing as she was given the time to write and record a debut album of original material. Released in December 2011 Heaven sold over 1.5 million copies and saw Ferguson hailed as the next big UK soul star.
The buzz built again for the release of her second album Freedom, but commercially it didn’t perform on par with her first album. The album’s campaign was cut short when Ferguson became pregnant, which may have had a knock on effect for the album’s sales. Now Ferguson is back with her third album Lady Sings the Blues, a homage to Billie Holiday’s album of the same name.
One thing to point out is that this isn’t a direct re-recording of Holiday’s album of the same name. The songs are all songs that have been sung by Holiday at some point so the album is more a celebration of the legendary singer. The album opens with Get Happy immediately reintroducing to Ferguson’s soulful and powerful voice.
The album showcases Ferguson’s vocals in a way that her previous releases haven’t. We always knew she had soul but she sounds fantastic singing these songs. The bluesy That Ole Devil Called Love is an early highlight on the record with Ferguson effusing sass and sex appeal, whilst Summertime is darkly hypnotic with atmospheric vocals.
Elsewhere on the album Ferguson creates an elegant jazz feel on Don’t Explain, sounds dreamy on I’ll Never Smile Again, and lets go on the funky Fine and Mellow. The stand out moment on the record is God Bless The Child where Ferguson transports you to a smoky jazz club with her impressive vocal prowess.
On paper it’s clear why having Ferguson cover the songs of Holiday is a good idea but we can’t help feeling it’s an odd decision at this stage in her career, particularly when Ferguson fought so hard to record original material at the start of her career.
Maybe it’s something to do with the disappointing commercial performance of Freedom but it feels too early for her to be turning to covers. Lady Sings the Blues is a perfectly pleasant album and there’s no denying that Ferguson sounds fantastic. We would have preferred her to pay homage to the era with her own material though and that’s something she could have turned her hand to easily.