Soul child Joss Stone grew up going toe-to-toe and holding her own with some of classic R&B’s finest, and that old soul presence made for a disconnect: free spirit hippie girl inhabiting Timmy Thomas’ vintage “I’ve Fallen In Love With” with the same lived-in familiarity she brought to her take on The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love With a Girl.”
After enduring a lengthy battle with her record company, working with Raphael Saadiq, collaborating on movie soundtracks, and forming a band called Superheavy with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and Damien Marley as well as acting in the film Eragon and Showtime’s The Tudors, Stone’s become her own woman. Launching a label after fighting for emancipation, she applies that torque, frustration and fire on LP1, a full-tumble of relentless musicianship, grit and soul. Cut live over six days in Nashville, it conjures the spirit of another supplanted smokey Brit songstress in the steamy South: Dusty in Memphis.
The dusky satin of her near-drawled erotic anticipation on “Drive All Night” is threaded with the small details and grand responses of love and lust torn from life. The punch—delivered over a vintage keyboard and lean percussion—is the reality that this how these engagements really go down, making the chorus’ question “what use is the night when you can’t sleep anyway?” a foregone conclusion.
Still, it’s not always the blunt-force trauma of Stone’s truculent alto that makes LP1 so stunning; though moments like the Rickie Lee Jones-evoking shuffle’n’snark of “Don’t Start Lying To Me Now,” the faltering build of the pitched emotionalism of “Last One To Know” and the slow blues grind of “Landlord” offer full-tilt, howl-at-the-heavens vocalizing.
But where Stone stands out—as producer Dave Stewart realizes—is in her restraint. With a few sprinkled notes, she hums over the slowly building “Boat Yard,” which becomes a geyser of churning notes, then silk-whispers the album’s closing lullabye/prayer “Take Good Care.”
It is a holy spirit that moves Stone’s burning tones, and that blaze, when calibrated, hypnotizes. Over a couple acoustic guitar chords and the occasional piano rise, Stone unravels a witness about the utopia the world can be on the opening “Newborn.” A rejoinder, a bit of kindling and a match, the players press into each other as Stone rides that momentum higher, more intense and willing to be consumed by her vision.
In a world where machined dance fodder, rap-deckled pop and lumbering rawk dominates, a genuine article of soul music—especially one where the thick bass, tumbling Wurlitzer and bright guitars set the tone—is a joyous noise, indeed.