MUSIC REVIEWS: Joss Stone, Gloriana

The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2

Joss Stone

Stone‘d Records

★★★½

Back in 2003, Joss Stone catapulted herself to fame with “The Soul Sessions,” a collection of R&B classics and vintage soul songs.

Album cover for Gloriana "A Thousand Miles Left Behind".

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Album cover for Gloriana “A Thousand Miles Left Behind”. more >

The album felt like an experiment. Could a British teenager channel the pain, grit and groove of her favorite American singers from the ‘60s despite never having lived their blues herself? According to the 5 million people who bought “The Soul Sessions,” the answer was an immediate “Yes,” and Miss Stone became one of the leading women in a genre that later would spawn old-school soul singers including Adele and Amy Winehouse.

On “The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2,” she returns to the sound that launched her career. This is another covers album, filled with new versions of old songs. The basic template is the same, but the nine years that separate this record from its predecessor make all the difference, and the new Miss Stone — grown-up, jaded, even a little bit angry — no longer sounds like an experiment.

There’s genuine fire in Miss Stone’s voice, a supersized alto that huffs and puffs like a steam engine during the album’s faster moments. She croons one minute and screeches the next, willing to let herself get carried away if the song is good enough — and the songs are almost always good enough, even if they’re not the old standbys you might expect.

Familiar tunes by Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight are absent from the track list. Instead, Miss Stone sinks her teeth into a terrific cover of Honey Cone’s “While You’re Out Looking for Sugar” and slinks her way through a sexy, swampy version of Tim Renwick’s “Sideways Shuffle.” Most of the material is from the 1980s, an era overlooked by most soul fans, and “Vol. 2” even pays a visit to the 21st century with a smart, unexpected rendition of the Broken Bells hit “The High Road.”

Sure, she tends to oversing. Show me a diva who doesn’t. After becoming one of the highest-selling British artists of all time, Miss Stone has earned the right to indulge, and this kind of music certainly doesn’t call for understatement.

A Thousand Miles Left Behind

Gloriana

Emblem

★★

With “A Thousand Miles Left Behind,” the three members of Gloriana do their best to distinguish themselves from Lady Antebellum, the reigning coeds of country music. Both bands have a lineup consisting of two boys and one girl, and both spice up their country songs with lush, lovely doses of pop melody. Lady Antebellum’s shadow is too big to escape, though, and Gloriana never manages to find its own spotlight on this spotty sophomore record.

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