Monday, June 27, 2011

Music – Joss Stone

Like Jonny Lang and Shannon Curfman, Joss Stone made a huge impact when she appeared on the music scene in 2003 at the age of sixteen.  Unlike Lang and Curfman, who performed Blues, she performed Soul music.  Her debut album was titled The Soul Sessions and featured covers of classic soul songs, plus a White Stripes song.  She garnered immediate attention for her incredible voice.  She quickly followed this up with her second album, Mind Body & Soul, which had all original music on it.  She received multiple Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist.  She has had more mainstream success than Lang and Curfman.

How does a teenage, white, English girl end up being the most celebrated new Soul singer to come along in quite a while?  When she was ten her parents gave her Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits and she loved the music.  When she was thirteen she was watching a singer on television and said to herself, “I can sing better than that.”  She auditioned for a BBC program titled Star for a Night and not only made it on the air; she won the competition.

While performing at a charity show in 2001 two London-based producers saw her.  They contacted their label’s founder and told him they had “just heard the greatest singer they’d ever heard from their country.”  The exec flew her to New York in early 2002 and Stone sang for him in his office.  He said that when he heard this soulful voice coming out of the 14 year old blond girl in front of him he half thought someone was playing a trick on him; that she couldn’t possibly be the one singing.  He immediately signed her to a recording contract.  While working on her first album, the company made the decision to have her record covers of Soul classics in order to teach her how to develop her voice and performing styles.  The result was so good that they decided to release the cover album first, and then follow it with the original one.

In the fall of 2003 I just happened to see The Late Show with Conan O’Brien and Joss Stone was the musical guest that night.  I had never heard of her and when she started singing I was blown away by her voice.  She was also quite pretty and I figured, based on her voice, that she was somewhere in her 20s.  I later found out she was only 16 at the time.  Here is that performance.  She is singing The Chokin’ Kind.

[Update - Youtube has removed the video.  I'll edit this post to include it again if/when one becomes available.]
Stone has released two more albums since she debuted to such acclaim.  Her style of music, as well as her appearance, has gotten funkier as she has matured.  Here she is in 2006 performing Dusty Springfield’s classic song Son of a Preacher Man:

She has continued to perform at any number of charity events and has made appearances with just about all of the classic Soul and R&B artists that she idolized, including the woman her voice is most often compared to – Gladys Knight.

Stone is now 24 and was in the news recently for an unfortunate reason.  Two men were arrested near her home in England.  They had weapons and rope in their car and a detailed map of her house.  It appears that they were planning to kidnap and probably kill her.  Stone was not home at the time, and is doing fine.  She has angered some people in the U.K for how much time she has spent in the U.S. and for the fact that her accent is becoming American.  It just points out how warped some people can be about things like that.

My favorite of her albums is still the first one because it displays her voice the best.  The later albums all have good songs on them, and some will probably be recognizable because of their radio airplay.  I definitely recommend her first album.  If you like it, give her other albums a try.

[Note: the links below are to CDs.  Links for the MP3 downloads are at the same page, so I did not include separate links for them here.]

     First Album            Second Album           Third Album            Fourth Album


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