Amy Winehouse, The Fleece, Bristol

From north London with the smoky voice of Aretha in her prime
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The Independent Culture

It's not enough to be just a pop star, it seems, nowadays - you have to become a victim too. This 22-year-old Jewish Londoner with a smoky, husky voice of a mature African-American jazz singer, has gone from being a curvaceous teenager to an emaciated fitness addict, so the Mail tells us.

But, whatever her health routine - and she looks quite healthy - Amy Winehouse is no poor-me celebrity locked in her own warped reality, as evidence on her next single aired triumphantly for the first time. "They tried and they failed," she smirks as she launches into "Rehab". This should rightfully become her biggest hit yet when it's released next month. "Try to make me go to rehab/I say no, no, no," she hollers with the same gospel force of Aretha Franklin in her prime.

It's been very nearly three years since Winehouse delivered her debut album Frank, was nominated for the Brits and Mercury, and became platinum-seller.

But Winehouse was, and is, streets ahead in the keeping-it-real stakes. Not only does she pen her own witty-but-angry lyrics (netting an Ivor Novello award) but deals with the everyday life of a feisty precocious young madam - laying into a wimpy "lady boy" ex on her first hit, "Stronger Than Me". She tells us: "I'm a bastard, I'm not a nice girl and I'm not an investment." You don't mess with this girl.

For her new, far more funky and less musically complex material, she casts off the jazz eiderdown and delves into the realms of early Motown, Sixties girl-group and Stax soul. She still possesses the low-moaning emotional timbre of Nina Simone and Dinah Washington, but is swept along on a contagious wave of honest-to-goodness Motown stomp, swing and it-girl shimmy.

Brassed-up by trumpet-player Jay Phelps and saxist Aaron Liddard, her backing singers, Zalon Thompson and Ade Omotago, with their bow ties and flat caps, look like they've stepped out of an early incarnation of The Temptations. You can check the 60s references in much of her new material - her forthcoming album title track "Back to Black" and "Addictive" (in which she lays into a lover for smoking all her weed) has a Booker T feel.

In her first outing for a while, she messes up a little and shrugs it off quite forgivably. She seals it with a kiss-off: "You're excellente like Ferrero Roche." How can you resist that charm?

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