Hot on the heels of Amy Winehouse and Katie Melua, Joss Stone is the latest teenage sensation to be feted by the music industry. There’s a massive buzz about Stone at the moment, with both Paul Weller and Lenny Kravitz offering to write songs for her, and soul legend Betty Wright producing this, her debut album.
The main reason for all the fuss is the fact that Stone has a remarkable voice, all the more so when you consider she’s a 16-year-old girl from Devon. As with Winehouse, you’d swear she’d been around for years singing with the likes of Aretha Franklin. Of course there’s nothing unusual about white girls being able to sing the blues (see Dusty Springfield, Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox et al) – what is unusual is to hear a voice this strong from one so young.
The Soul Sessions is apparently intended as more of an introduction to Stone, consisting of standards, obscure gems and the odd contemporary cover. An album of Stone’s own material is expected later this year, but in the meantime this makes the perfect taster.
It’s a bit unfair though to call this a “covers” album – Stone takes each song and completely reinterprets it, with her version of Fell In Love With A Girl by the White Stripes being the best of a wonderful bunch. Renamed Fell In Love With A Boy, the furious guitar work of the original is stripped away and we’re left with a deliciously languid soul song, with a downright filthy bassline. It’s rare that a cover version outshines the original, especially when the source material is a band as good as The White Stripes, but Stone manages it here.
Elsewhere, The Chokin’ Kind makes for a heartbreakingly good opening track, and Stone even takes on an Aretha Franklin song (All The Kings Horses) and doesn’t disgrace herself. Although the album is ballad-heavy, Super Duper Love is the funkiest thing you’ll hear all year – Stone could do worse than explore this sound more for her next album.
The only criticism that could be levelled here is that some of the selections don’t work that well – I Had A Dream is pretty uninspired, while The Islay Brothers‘ For The Love Of You goes on for far too long (although it is an impressive showcase of Stone’s voice). However, the band of R ‘n’ B veterans keep things tight and listenable even when the material falls short.
Stone is building up an enviable reputation in the States (there have already been whispers of Grammy nominations) and it’s surely only a matter of time before she’s a household name at home. The Soul Sessions is a fine introduction to a young girl who is going to be one of 2004’s biggest stars.