Album: Joss Stone

The Soul Sessions, Relentless

Joss Stone is the latest R&B sensation in America, a 16-year-old blonde with a beautiful, smoky soul voice who's already appeared on both Jay Leno's and David Letterman's shows, and garnered gushing plaudits from Billboard and Rolling Stone. Her meteoric rise seems all the more astonishing when one learns that Joss comes not from a soul hotspot like Detroit or Memphis, but from Tiverton in Devon. She's living proof that real talent blossoms best not by smoothing away idiosyncrasies to fit some Pop Idol production line, but through having a firm idea of one's abilities and how best to present them. In Joss's case, that meant going to Miami to record with a session crew of Seventies soul legends such as Timmy Thomas, Betty Wright, Latimore and Willie "Little Beaver" Hale. It has proved the perfect strategy, with the light, swampy funk settings bringing out echoes of Southern soul belles like Mavis Staples and Dorothy Moore in Stone's voice, and the material - mostly deep-soul obscurities like Harlan Howard's "The Chokin' Kind" and Laura Lee's "Dirty Man" - custom-tailored to fit her style. What really confirms Stone's talent, though, is the way she transforms such apparently ill-fitting songs as John Sebastian's "I Had a Dream" and The White Stripes' "Fell in Love with a Boy" so completely that they all but erase one's memory of the originals. Debut of the year.

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