Joss Stone doesn’t need you to tell her she has an amazing voice. She knows it. Her fans know it. Her band knows it. The young R&B singer’s stage presence oozes with the confidence that one would expect from a singer whose professional career began when she was barely a teenager. She’s shared the stage with musical titans like Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, Rod Stewart, Herbie Hancock, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder, and yet the list still goes on. Being a female vocalist with her abilities who can perform in the styles of soul, R&B, rock and blues, among others, many comparisons to Janis Joplin are inevitable. And that’s fair, but she’s so much more versatile than the late Joplin was, not to mention prettier. But music isn’t a beauty contest, it isn’t any kind of contest, although some people, musicians included, do have a tendency to make it about competition. I’m looking at you guitar players!
Joss Stone released her debut album, The Soul Sessions, in 2003. The album was a compilation of covers mostly reinterpreted to fit Stone’s vocal style. The first single, “Fell In Love With A Boy”, was a reworking of The White Stripes song, “Fell In Love With A Girl”. Although I fancy myself a White Stripes fan, her version of the song is more in line with what I would lean towards for getting my musical fix. The me from high school would probably say the opposite, because back then I was more into anything loud and rebellious than I was smooth and soulful, as most male teens are when their hormones are raging. Susan Tedeschi was one of the first female singers I became enamored with. How could you not with a voice like hers. Plus she plays a mean guitar, something I feel the music industry needs to see more of. Look into Samantha Fish, Ana Popovic, or Joanne Shaw Taylor for similar tastes. Much like Tedeschi, Stone wears her heart on her sleeve whenever she is performing. Her duet with LeAnn Rimes of the Janis Joplin song, “Summertime”, or her performance with Jeff Beck on American Idol doing the Nina Simone classic, “I Put A Spell On You” are great examples of a performer who can step up and not only command the stage, but command the attention of their audience.
By the time of Stone’s third release, Introducing Joss Stone, released in 2007, she had begun to experiment with styles ranging from pop, to funk, to even hip hop. She managed to get Lauryn Hill to guest on the song “Music”, who hadn’t appeared on anything since her solo debut in 1998. This album isn’t as stripped down, neo-soul/R&B as the previous ones, taking on a slightly more polished, pop-infused tone. It isn’t too surprising considering by this point in her career, she had gained considerable attention within the music industry, and when that happens to most artists, the tendency is to make them more commercially viable, which is exactly what I hear in some of the songs. Still, there’s good music to be had, with some material having a retro, 70’s vibe, while simultaneously feeling modern and fresh. The song “Head Turner” features some catchy funk/R&B guitar accompaniment with a quick solo towards the end that fits right in with the groove, followed by some horn arrangements that can’t help but make one smile and bob the head.
2012’s The Soul Sessions Vol. 2 saw Stone return to her debut format of all covers, while in 2015 she released the hip hop and reggae influenced Water For Your Soul. I myself would love to see her attempt a record with a blues or Americana roots feel. I think her voice and style would fit perfectly with a guitar, bass, and drum trio doing some moody blues rock tunes. Maybe throw in a few backup singers and a Hammond B3 organ and you’d have a hell of a sound, not to mention a great live performance. Whatever this young, attractive talent decides to pursue, she’s sure to wow her audience with an unending desire to keep soul music relevant and moving forward for future generations to enjoy.
She is currently on tour over in Africa, with dates going through May 9th, before she comes back to the states on June 23rd to Rochester, New York for the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Visit JossStone.com for all her upcoming tour dates.
Written by Evan Crocker for The Joe Bonamassa Blog
Photo Copyright: Siebe van Ineveld