Album: Joss Stone, Colour Me Free! (EMI)

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The Independent Culture

Delayed for a year by a label with whom she has fallen into dispute, Colour Me Free! represents a return to the retro-soul style of Joss Stone's debut following the ill-advised attempts to squeeze her into the R&B diva mould.

Fortunately for Joss, she's built a good working relationship with Conner Reeves, who co-writes many tracks and helps produce them: the single "Free Me" features her Miami funk sound, with itchy Little Beaver-style guitar licks and an electric sitar break, while the piano blues "4 and 20", with its organ shadings and shivering strings, recalls the Memphis funk of Willie Mitchell's classic Al Green hits. Jeff Beck reprises his "Superstition" wah-wah for "Parallel Lines", though he's equalled by the unnamed guitarist whose impeccably damped pizzicato chording and liquid lead fills dominate "Governmentalist", a complaint which Nas's guest rap suggests was aimed at a previous administration. Understated slap-bass carries Joss's emotive delivery of Candi Staton's hit "You Got The Love", and David Sanborn's waspish sax decorates her take on Ray Charles's "I Believe It To My Soul", but the most obvious indication of how comfortable she is with this regained blues-soul mode is the concluding "Mr Wankerman", a slow, brooding putdown which expands into a 14-minute jam.

Download this: Free Me; Parallel Lines; 4 and 20; Governmentalist; Mr Wankerman