When I first heard Laura Mvula‘s “She” on the radio I was struck by her originality. Then I heard “I Can’t Live With the World,” another cut that sounded (wonderfully) like one of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s inspired arrangements. But no, it was Laura’s. She did all the arrangements on her debut album.

I automatically assumed that she was South African with a surname like Mvula, but it turns out that’s actually her married name; she is married to the Zambian-born, classical¬†baritone, Themba Mvula. And yes, Laura herself is a classically-trained musician with a degree in composition from Birmingham Conservatory, which is where she met her husband. She is also a choral director. (I was thinking of the England-based but American composer, Eric Whitacre when I first heard “She.”) You can hear that training in her arrangements.

My two favorite songs on the new album are “She” and “I Can’t Live with the World.” “She” concerns a child moving from a rougher part of town, a concrete jungle, to a more gentrified¬†part of the city surrounded by nature and beautiful gardens. In the Brit Music Awards performance (below) she reminds me of another dynamic female vocal legend: Nina Simone, who was also classically trained. Both have that sort of stunning originality that feels like it’s become more and more rare these days. Laura’s debut album,¬†Sing to the Moon, will be released digitally on April 16th. The album will be released on May 14th.


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