Joss Stone, modern queen of the timeless old-school soul, has propelled herself into a project merging hip hop, reggae, world music and R&B. Her tenure in the short-lived all-star group SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and Damien Marley served as the catalyst for Water For Your Soul. And those influences from such diverse genres make Stone’s latest even that much more delicious.
Four years in the making, Water For Your Soul walks a tightrope between real-world consciousness (“Wake Up,” “Clean Water”) and Hacky Sack hippie oblivious (“Sensimilla”). But throughout, Stone maintains her soulful vocals without resorting to diva histrionics.
As a citizen of the world, Stone has toured the globe intensively, and those sounds make it into the English singer’s latest LP. “Molly Town,” a slight song of romantic obsession, boasts deep and undulating grooves. Fieldstripping Amy Winehouse’s ska/soul intersection over a more aggressive reggae base, the song becomes ragged pleasure. Conversely, “Love Me” features a more gentle, submerging reggae influence. Later, “Stuck on You” plays with African/Appalachian hybridity, and “Cut The Line” melds Flamenco into a post-Supremes’ culture.
Elevated message informs Water For Your Soul, as well. “Harry’s Symphony” is a ghetto street opera of coming of age for “18 and Over,” portraying real-world treachery against the lures of adult pleasure, and how easy it is to get in over one’s head. A children’s chorus reinforces “Let Me Breathe”’s declaration of human need, while “Wake Up” is a straight-up rap thrust with Marley that demands listeners pay attention to the song and the world around them. But it’s “The Answer,” closing the project with a dervish whirl, bowed string instruments and syncopation, that provides both the fury of the questions that plague society, as well as and the resolution of surrender as an answer.