Album: Nate James <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Set the Tone, ONE TWO
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The Independent Culture

Yokel-soul: it's the latest thing in R&B. If the hottest female soul star can come from Devon, who would bet against the Suffolk-born Nate James following suit and reigning alongside Joss Stone? There's every chance, judging by Set the Tone, an album carefully constructed to evoke just the right echoes of old-school Seventies funk within its sleek contemporary arrangements. After all, it worked for Jamiroquai, with whom James clearly shares a raft of influences, most notable among them Stevie Wonder. With its horn swells and sweeping strings draped around febrile electric-piano funk, a track such as "Universal" is strongly reminiscent of Fulfillingness-era Stevie. But there's less of an actual message here than in even the least engaged of Wonder's songs, most tracks being routine invitations to the dance or skirmishes from the battle of the sexes. James generally adopts a stance of indulgent arrogance to his love life, wary of girls that "want to control me". Instead, his world is moved by vague desires to "open my mind to the things that could be" and calls to not "hold back what you feel inside". It's all very slick and superficially engaging, but these are hardly the big ideas that move hearts and minds, surely.

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